Zimbabwe fuel protests: Opposition activist Pastor Mawarire arrested

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People queue at a supermarket in Harare on WednesdayImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Armed security forces have been controlling access to a central Harare supermarket

Police in Zimbabwe have arrested a prominent activist, Pastor Evan Mawarire, as protests against soaring fuel prices enter their third day.

Mr Mawarire was taken from his home and charged with inciting violence.

Offices and businesses remained closed on Wednesday and the streets of the capital, Harare, were largely deserted.

Several people have been killed and hundreds arrested in the protests. Mobile networks, acting on government orders, have suspended internet access.

The BBC's Shingai Nyoka in Harare says many Zimbabweans are questioning what happens next, especially as they can no longer access popular messaging platforms such as Whatsapp - a major source of information.

Earlier on Wednesday, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd that had gathered at the only supermarket currently operating in Harare's business district.

However, there have not any fresh reports of protesters manning barricades on Wednesday - as seen earlier this week.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Armed police arrested the pastor (in yellow hoodie) at his house in Harare

Pastor Mawarire was arrested by armed police at his house on Wednesday morning.

The pastor gained fame as a figurehead of the #ThisFlag protests against the former president, Robert Mugabe, in 2016.

He was cleared in 2017 on charges of attempting a violent overthrow of the government.

The latest street protests have coincided with a three-day strike called by unions angered by a more-than-twofold increase in the price of fuel.

Media caption,

Roads were barricaded by protesters earlier this week

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the price hike was aimed at tackling shortages caused by an increase in fuel use and "rampant" illegal trading.

Popular anger over the decision has been spurred by discontent over runaway inflation and a decline in living standards.

The protesters have accused the president - currently on a tour of Russia and Asian countries - of failing to live up to his promises.

Mr Mnangagwa came to power in November 2017 after Mr Mugabe resigned following a military takeover and mass demonstrations.

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Last year he won a poll marred by violence and claims of election rigging.

On Monday, the main offices of Zimbabwe's opposition party, MDC, were set alight.

Photos taken at the scene showed security gates torn down, windows smashed and burnt debris on the floor.

The government has blamed the opposition and political rights groups for Monday's violence.

The hike means petrol prices rose from $1.24 (£0.97) a litre to $3.31 , with diesel up from $1.36 a litre to $3.11.

Zimbabwe now has the most expensive fuel in the world, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com.