Police and soldiers turned away motorists and ordered morning commuters to disembark from ZUPCO buses and walk home during a heightened enforcement of a coronavirus lockdown on Tuesday.
Long queues developed at several police checkpoints around Harare.
Witnesses said police were only allowing security services and medical professionals through.
The objective of the sudden measures remains unclear with speculation that they were aimed at foiling potential MDC Alliance protests outside the Harare Magistrates Court where Thabani Mpofu, a lawyer for MDC-A leader Nelson Chamisa, was due to appear charged with obstructing the course of justice.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime also faced opposition anger as MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe, who has hijacked the MDC-A party in Parliament, is expected to expel those who resist her takeover. Khupe is culling defiant MDC-A MPs armed with a controversial Supreme Court judgement which appeared to assert her as the legitimate interim leader of the party led by Chamisa.
Khupe is also reportedly seeking to capture the MDC Alliance HQ in central Harare, with the help of Mnangagwa’s security forces.
Government spokesman Ndavaningi Mangwana insisted there was nothing in particular that was necessitating the clampdown, which caused massive disruptions.
“The government has not pronounced a change in lockdown regulations. We are still on Level 2 lockdown and permitted economic activity should go ahead. Police are only enforcing the pronounced and gazetted Level 2 conditions,” Mangwana wrote on Twitter.
The tight restrictions appeared to be limited to Harare, however, with no such controls in other major cities where the flow of traffic was largely unhindered.
Zimbabwe is under an indefinite Level 2 of a national lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Most economic activity is allowed, although the informal markets remain closed.
Zimbabwe had 203 coronavirus cases on Monday night following 26 new cases, the ministry of health announced.