Zimbabweans finding it hard to embrace a shock 150 percent overnight fuel increase should park their cars and ride bicycles instead, a minister said on Sunday.
Deputy Information Minister Energy Mutodi also issued a chilling threat on Zimbabweans contemplating taking their protest into the streets, warning they may “lose a limb”.
Transport operators and businesses were reviewing their prices upwards on Sunday after President Emmerson Mnangagwa, speaking to reporters late Saturday, said his government raised the price of petrol to $3,31, up from $1,38, while diesel will now sell for $3,11 per litre up from $1,32.
Mnangagwa said the shock increase, which would make fuel unaffordable for many Zimbabweans, would address a “persistent shortfall in the fuel market attributable to the increased fuel usage in the economy and compounded by rampant illegal currency and fuel trading activities.”
Former presidential candidate Nkosana Moyo said the government was practising “voodoo economics” and MDC vice president Professor Welshman Ncube said Mnangagwa was worse than Robert Mugabe, the man he toppled in a military coup in November 2017 while promising to make things better.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the country’s main labour movement, called for an indefinite nationwide “stay-away” starting on Monday, accusing the government of “provocation”.
Adding fuel to the fire, Deputy Information Minister Energy Mutodi – the second top ranking government spokesperson – suggested Zimbabweans should sell or park their cars.
“Faced with high fuel costs, clever people know what to do and here are some tips: Avoid fuel guzzler, reduce fleet, cancel unnecessary trips and use bicycles where possible to save BIG. Do not protest in the street you can lose a limp (sic) in skirmishes,” Mutodi said on Twitter.
He claimed the new fuel prices, the highest in the region, would “stamp out arbitrage in the fuel sector and normalise fuel supply” even as he added that Zimbabweans must brace for “commodity price volatility emanating from the fuel price shock”.
“Volatility will be temporary before goods prices normalise,” he insisted.
The embattled government knows it is sitting on a powder keg and has been making threats to deter the opposition and labour unions from taking their frustrations into the streets.
Mutodi’s warning that Zimbabweans will “lose limbs” appeared designed to harvest the fear induced by the August 1 street shooting of 35 opposition activists by the military in central Harare during protests against delays in announcing results of the Presidential Election held on July 30 last year.
“Surely, by now, it must be abundantly clear even to the most intellectually ungifted that a condition sine qua non (condition precedent) of Zimbabwe’s progress is the removal from power of Zanu PF in all its manifestations either as a civilian formation or quasi-military entity,” Professor Ncube said on Sunday.
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa on Saturday said he was ready to “lead and stand ready to play a key role in finding a lasting solution,” but has not outlined what his party intends to do to bring the pressure to bear on the Zanu PF government which he has refused to recognise since the disputed election.