Local cross-border bus operators with services to Zimbabwe have suspended trips to the troubled neighbour, where armed law enforcement continues to clamp down on public demonstrations against a sharp fuel price increase.
Under the campaign #ZimbabweShutdown, the country’s labour movements and opposition parties urged ordinary citizens to stay away from work, school and others from Monday in protest against the overall economic crisis and the recent fuel price increases in particular.
Sporadic incidents of violence, burning and looting have however, characterised some of the protests, with Zimbabwean law enforcement responding with deadly force in certain cases. By this afternoon, South African media was quoting opposition parties as saying six people had been killed thus far by Zimbabwe police in the tensions.
Local cross-border bus operators cut off their services yesterday fearing the volatile situation, in which buses have already been burnt in areas such as Bulawayo.
“Angry civilians are burning any moving vehicle including the buses transiting in and out of the country,” Seabelo Travel and Tours host, Refilwe Kgatlwane told Mmegi this morning.
“As we speak there is no vehicle movement at Zimbabwe. The situation worsened today.
“This has really affected our business as we are losing customers.
“This situation makes us seem like we are unreliable. It is the first time we have encountered such a challenge since we started on that route.”
JH Zikhale Motorways manager, Jerry Zikhale said their services to Zimbabwe after their bus, which was in the troubled country, returned damaged due to the violence.
“Our bus does not light as we speak. It is fortunate that it arrived back in Botswana in one piece. I heard that some Zimbabwe buses were burnt to ashes.
“This is a great loss to us. We are not working and just awaiting the situation to subside.”
Meanwhile, as buses stop travelling to Zimbabwe, other forms of contact have also been compromised, with Internet and social media switched off this morning. Users in the country woke up to an Internet and social media shutdown in major cities such as Bulawayo and Harare, which have also been the sites of the biggest protests.
NetBlocks, a civil society group that tracks Internet disruptions and shutdowns across the globe, reported earlier today that it had picked up ‘multiple internet shutdowns’ from earlier today, as well as evidence of “extensive social media/website restrictions”.
Some parts of the country had services reportedly restored after lunch although Netblocks noted that there was still highly restricted access in certain areas of social media.
Yesterday civic groups in that country had warned that an Internet and social media blackout by the government in that country, was looming as a way of smothering the protests by cutting off lines of communication and the reporting of state violence.
Protests began following Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement of a more than 100% rise in petrol and diesel prices over the weekend in hopes to spur up supplies. However, the decision attracted harsh criticism from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, civil society and rights groups.