Zimbabwe police arrest leader of largest union

HARARE (AP): A spokesman for Zimbabwe’s largest trade union said police have arrested the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Japhet Moyo. He was arrested at the airport in Harare on Monday and lawyers are checking with police to see why. His organization had called for last week’s nationwide strike to protest the government’s action to more than double the price of fuel. The strike and protests sparked off a government crackdown in which 12 people were killed, according to human rights groups. More than 600 people, including opposition members of parliament, have been arrested in connection with last week’s protests. The labor federation called for last week’s job stay away.

Zimbabwe’s capital is returning to normal Monday, after a week of turmoil in which Zimbabweans protested dramatic fuel price hikes and government security forces launched a crackdown in which 12 people were killed. Most shops and businesses have reopened, although many people are stocking up on food items in case the country faces further unrest.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to return to the country late Monday, after announcing Sunday that he will skip attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He is in Kazakhstan, after visiting Russia last week. Mnangagwa had been under growing pressure to return from a two-week overseas visit as accounts emerged of abuses by security forces, including dozens of people wounded by gunfire and others hunted down in their homes and severely beaten. Zimbabwe has seen days of unrest since Mnangagwa made an announcement more than doubling fuel prices that made the struggling country’s gasoline the most expensive in the world.

Indicating the severity of Zimbabwe’s economic problems, South Africa confirmed that it turned down Mnangagwa’s request for a loan of $1.2 billion recently. “We just don’t have that kind of money,” South African treasury spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane told the broadcaster, eNCA. Zimbabwe’s courts are on Monday to hear two cases related to the government’s ongoing clampdown on dissent. The High Court will hear a challenge to the government’s suspension of internet services. Although internet service has been restored after a nearly week-long blackout, social media outlets such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Facebook are still jammed. The government has said its action is to prevent Zimbabweans from organizing violent protests.

The blockade “has caused serious inconveniences, loss of business and income, threats to life and the right to health care as people are not able to access vital communication relating to their medication,” said the court application by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, which urged the court to rule that the government should lift its restrictions.