Police set up checkpoints on many Zimbabwean roads on Saturday, searching cars after recent anti-government protests marked by violence and looting.
“We have already set up checkpoints where police and other security institutions will check,” police spokeswoman Charity Charamba told Saturday’s State Herald newspaper.
She said the roadblocks should make it possible to catch suspected looters and recover stolen property from demonstrations that broke out after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced last weekend a 150% increase in the price of fuel.
We have already set up checkpoints where police and other security institutions will check
According to the Herald, some 700 people were arrested after the violent demonstrations for which the newspaper blamed the opposition MDC party and the trade unions.
Under former President Robert Mugabe, police roadblocks were common but had largely disappeared after his ouster by the army in November 2017 and his replacement by former Vice-President Mnangagwa.
On Saturday, police checkpoints were operational in the capital Harare and in the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, an opposition stronghold, AFP journalists reported.
In Bulawayo, police officers armed with assault rifles were carrying out searches.
In both cities, customers seeking to purchase basic commodities returned to stores that opened for the first time since the demonstrations began on Monday.
Long queues have formed for bread and fuel, which have become scarce due to the economic crisis that has plagued Zimbabwe for years.
“Nothing has changed since the price of gasoline increased,” a measure that was intended to address the shortage, said a motorist who identified himself as Sonny.
Social media sites such as Facebook and WhatsApp have been blocked by the government to apparently prevent the circulation of information about security operations and alleged police violence.
Earlier this week, three people were killed, according to police. Human rights NGOs report a higher death toll, with up to 16 deaths.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Harare on Friday to “stop repression”, alarmed by the “excessive use of force” by security forces, including alleged live ammunition fire.
He called on Harare “to find ways to engage in dialogue with the population about their legitimate grievances”.