Zimbabwe warns brutal crackdown is ′just a foretaste′ of things to come | News | DW | 20.01.2019
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Zimbabwe warns brutal crackdown is 'just a foretaste' of things to come

Zimbabwean authorities will hold opponents "fully accountable" for the unrest, and a spokesman described the deadly crackdown as "just a foretaste" of the future. President Mnangagwa has cut short a foreign trip.

The government of Zimbabwe is set to drastically ramp up its response to protests over fuel prices, a spokesman for President Emmerson Mnangagwa told The Sunday News newspaper.

Authorities claim three people have lost their lives in the unrest, but activists say some 12 people were killed and scores of others suffered gunshot wounds in the brutal crackdown.

Talking to the pro-government paper, spokesman George Charamba said the opposition MDC party and the trade unions had "unleashed" violence.

Zimbabwe's government "will not stand by while such narrow interests play out so violently," Charamba told The Sunday News from Azerbaijan, where he was following the president on an official trip.

"The response so far is just a foretaste of things to come," he added.

Read more: Zimbabwe opposition rejects blame for the violence

The presidential spokesman also said the government would review some constitutional amendments adopted in 2013, which he said were being abused by its opponents.

Watch video 01:32

Behind Zimbabwe's protests, a faltering economy

President returns home early

Mnangagwa took office after the military pushed out long-reigning dictator Robert Mugabe 14 months ago. However, the Mnangagwa administration has made little progress in granting political freedoms or boosting the economy.

Less than a week ago, Mnangagwa announced a sharp hike in gas and petrol prices, which made gasoline in the impoverished country the most expensive in the world. He then departed for a tour abroad set to include the World Economic Forum in Davos, leaving his vice president, former military leader Constantino Chiwenga, to deal with the subsequent unrest.

Mnangagwa returned to Zimbabwe on Monday without going to Davos. He said Sunday that Minister of Finance Mthuli Ncube would take his place at the forum. 

The government's response has been strongly criticized, with UN officials slamming the "excessive use of force." The authorities ordered two internet shutdowns and a partial block of social media. Some 700 activists were reportedly arrested, including several lawmakers from the opposition MDC party and a prominent Mugabe critic, pastor Evan Mawarire.

Evan Mawarire giving a lecture in Johannesburg (AFP/Getty Images/M. Safodien)

Evan Mawarire led a wide-reaching internet campaign against Robert Mugabe

Opposition to be held 'fully accountable'

The pastor now faces a charge of subversion, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. He said it was "heartbreaking" to see the new government act like the regime of Robert Mugabe.

Presidential spokesman Charamba accused MDC leaders of seeking power "on the blood of the Zimbabwean people."

"The MDC and its affiliate organizations will be held fully accountable for the violence and the looting," he said.

A partial internet blackout was still in force on Sunday.

dj/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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