Armed riot police patrolled the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, on Monday where frustrations have been growing over a deepening economic crisis.
The Zanu-PF government has routinely used police to violently break up opposition rallies and protests against a crisis that has left many Zimbabweans scrounging for food and medicines as health and education services collapse.
On Monday, dozens of riot police in armoured trucks and armed with automatic rifles were stationed at a central city park where protesters usually gather for marches.
Other police squads with batons, shields and tear-gas canisters patrolled Harare on foot, although there was no public announcement or visible sign of planned protests.
There was no comment from police on the deployment. Public anger is high over an economic meltdown that has brought 80% unemployment, chronic shortages of food and fuel, hyperinflation and an outbreak of cholera.
A power-sharing deal signed between Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in September has not been implemented as the sides argued over control of ministries and the abductions of opposition figures and human rights activists.
On Monday, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe announced it would let workers with payslips cash their salaries without limit, while all other withdrawals remained restricted.
Zimbabwean dollar salaries are now mostly being used to pay for public transport, but many businesses are demanding payment in foreign currency in the face of inflation that officially stands at more than 230-million percent.
Critics say Mugabe — 84, and in power since independence from Britain in 1980 — has mismanaged the economy and violated human rights, sending the once-prosperous nation into meltdown.
A cholera outbreak has worsened the humanitarian crisis, infecting nearly 40 000 people and killing more than 1 900, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Mugabe, who is on leave this month and returned home on Saturday from a week’s vacation in South-East Asia, says Zimbabwe’s economy has been sabotaged by Western powers opposed to his seizures of white-owned farms for black Zimbabweans. — Reuters