Protests over bleak economy erupt in Harare | News | DW | 03.08.2016
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Protests over bleak economy erupt in Harare

Riot police in Zimbabwe have used a water cannon and batons to disperse a protest by around 1,000 demonstrators gathered in the capital. The unrest is a sign of growing opposition to 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

Marchers clad in the national flag - a symbol of a surge in recent protests - joined by unemployed graduates in academic gowns with others holding aloft crosses, took to the streets of Harare Wednesday, shouting slogans and bearing signs that said "Once Liberator, Now Oppressor", "Mugabe Must Go" and "You Have Failed, Mr. Mugabe."

"What we are saying is simple: we need jobs," Douglas Munjere, 30, an unemployed university graduate told the AFP news agency. "All these people should be at work but there are no jobs."

Witnesses said riot police swiftly used force to disperse the protesters as they gathered outside the finance ministry. The Southern African country's economic collapse has worsened this year, with the government now without the funds to even pay its military or civil servants on time.

A DW correspondent on the scene said that after the police started firing water cannons and tear gas, the violence erupted quickly. Some of the demonstrators attempted to throw stones at the riot police, who responded by beating some protestors. Marchers started running in various directions and riot police began indiscriminately beating passers-by as well as demonstrators. The correspondent also witnessed riot police beating a BBC cameraperson, whose camera was also smashed.

A series of street protests has erupted in past weeks, despite Mugabe's record of using his ruthless security forces to crush public dissent. In a growing sign of popular dissatisfaction, decorated war veterans - once the bedrock of the president's support - have begun to turn against the leader.

A separate rally organized by disaffected university graduates was denied a permit to march. However, a high court then overturned the denial and allowed them to go ahead with the event. The graduates then joined another group protesting government plans to introduce bond notes - a local token currency supposedly pegged to the US dollar.

Economists say the bond notes could revive the hyperinflation that destroyed the economy in 2008 and 2009, leading the street economy to function on a mixture of US dollars and South African Rands.

DW's correspondent said that the protesters attempted to march from the finance ministry to parliament, where they intended to file a petition related to the introduction of the bond notes. Joice Mujuru, formerly a close ally of Mugabe who served as vice president from 2010 to 2014, has also filed a constitutional challenge to the introduction of bond notes. A hearing date for that challenge has yet to be set by the courts.

jar/kl (AFP, with DW correspondent reporting from Harare)

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