Twenty-one health workers in Bulawayo test positive for virus

Shingai Nyoka

BBC News, Harare

A Zimbabwean health worker in Bulawayo
Zimbabwean health workers have decried lack of protective gear

Twenty-one health workers in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, according to the latest Ministry of Health update.

The workers had come into contact with confirmed coronavirus cases and had been in isolation.

It comes days after nurses unions called a strike over poor pay and a shortage of personal protective gear.

This week has seen a dramatic spike in confirmed cases. Ninety-eight were recorded on Wednesday, 51 of them from Bulawayo.

On Thursday, 41 people from across the country tested positive for the virus. In all, Zimbabwe has recorded 926 cases.

A partial lockdown remains in place amid warnings the figures could still rise during the current winter season.

Zimbabwe minister sacked for 'inappropriate conduct'

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has sacked his Health Minister Obadiah Moyo for “inappropriate conduct” over a $60m (£48m) medicines supply scandal.

Mr Moyo was dismissed “with immediate effect for conduct inappropriate for a government minister”, a statement issued by the president's chief secretary, Misheck Sibanda, said.

The minister has not responded to the allegations.

Information ministry spokesperson Nick Mangwana tweeted the statement:

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Last month, Mr Moyo was arrested on charges of corruption and abuse of office in connection with a coronavirus equipment procurement scandal, but was later released on bail.

He has been accused of awarding three contracts for drugs, testing kit and protective equipment to a company that had failed the vetting process.

The supplies were sold at inflated prices, with face masks costing nearly $30 each.

Zimbabwe critics unfollow president's Twitter en masse

BBC Monitoring

The world through its media

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa
President Mnangagwa's Twitter followers were down from 565,000 to 546,000 by 4 July

About 20,000 people have reportedly unfollowed Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Twitter in protest against his government.

According to the private ZimLive website, opposition activists started a "peaceful resistance" campaign last week to unfollow the president, decrying a deepening economic crisis in the country.

According to the website, the president's Twitter followers were down from 565,000 to 546,000 by 4 July.

Mr Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba dismissed the move, saying the president was not concerned by "fake people" unfollowing him.

It comes as the opposition and civil society groups are mobilising for nationwide protests on 31 July to demand that President Mnangagwa step down. Security forces have previously clamped down on protests.

Zimbabwe arrests nurses 'striking over pay'

Striking health workers in Zimbabwe
They are demanding to be paid in US dollars

Zimbabwe's largest nursing union says police have arrested more than a dozen nurses and union representatives protesting against poor pay.

The nurses are demanding to be paid in US dollars, saying that inflation, which is running at nearly 800%, is eroding their salaries.

"At least 13 of our members and union leaders were arrested during the demonstration at Harare hospital," Enock Dongo, the president of Zimbabwe Nurses' Association, tells AFP news agency.

"They are in police cells as we speak but we don't know what charges they are facing," he adds.

According to AFP, the union says they have been told that the arrested health workers will appear in court on Tuesday.

The Zimbabwe Nurses' Association, which represents around 15,000 state nurses, had last week called on members to strike over low pay.

Coronavirus remains a concern in the country, with 716 recorded cases including eight deaths.


Coronavirus lockdown: Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis
Coronavirus lockdown: Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis
Zimbabwe's lockdown measures to combat the spread of coronavirus have led to economic and political crisis.

Zimbabwe eases tourism lockdown measures

Shingai Nyoka

BBC News, Harare

Zimbabweans protests
Zimbabwe's economy has suffered under the coronavirus lockdown

Zimbabwe has announced it will partially reopen its tourism industry, one of the sectors worst affected by a three-month long lockdown.

Restaurants were previously only allowed to serve take-aways. They will now be allowed to serve sitting customers but at only half of their licensed capacity.

National parks and local safari and hunting operations are now also allowed to reopen.

Zimbabwe’s economy relies heavily on international tourism, which generates close to $1bn (£800m) from the more than two million tourists arrivals each year.

The sector has been forced to close due to the coronavirus, with borders remaining closed except for returning residents. Tourism players will now focus on reviving domestic tourism.

Zimbabwe has recorded 574 cases of Covid-19 so far.

Limited mobile money payments allowed in Zimbabwe

Shingai Nyoka

BBC News, Harare

A customer is served at a kiosk that accepts EcoCash. Photo dated 2018.
Getty Images
EcoCash is the country's biggest mobile money operator

Zimbabwe's Central Bank has permitted limited transactions on mobile payment platforms but the stock exchange remains suspended over accusations of economic sabotage.

On Monday, EcoCash, the largest mobile payment company announced that individual transactions and bill payments would still be permitted.

Bulk money traders and cash transactions would however remain banned.

The stock exchange remains closed until further notice.

Mobile money transactions account for over 80% of the country's payments.

On Friday a government notice said suspensions would pave the way for investigations.

Zimbabwe's government accuses both the national stock exchange and mobile money companies of fuelling the black market currency trade and subsequent collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar, which was reintroduced last year to replace the use of foreign currencies such as the US dollar and South African rand.

Mobile payments have risen as a result of the shortage of physical notes. The service is used for daily transactions including to pay for school fees, utilities, salaries, goods and services.

Zimbabwe opposition officials freed on bail

Shingai Nyoka

BBC News, Harare

Opposition MP Joana Mamombe in a hospital bed
Opposition MP Joana Mamombe is one of the three women who allege they were tortured by state agents

After more than a fortnight in detention, a court in Zimbabwe has freed on bail three officials of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) charged with lying to the police.

The three women were arrested after they said they had been abducted and sexually assaulted by state agents in May following a protest over Covid-19 lockdown conditions.

The government, which in the past has been accused of abducting its opponents, says there are glaring inconsistencies in their statements.

The High Court set stringent bail conditions.

MP Joana Mamombe and two youth leaders are not allowed to speak to the international press or post on social media.

But the MDC says what is critical is that they have been granted bail. The three women have spent over two weeks behind bars.

The government says the alleged abductions are part of an orchestrated attempt to undermine President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government and it says it has mobile phone tracking and video evidence to prove that the officials were out in public at the time they say they were abducted.

No date for the trial has been set.

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Zimbabwe's fuel prices rise by 150%

Shingai Nyoka

BBC News, Harare

A petrol attendent in Zimbabwe - 2018
Getty Images
Petrol and diesel are often in short supply and queues at garages are a way of life

The price of petrol and diesel in Zimbabwe is to more than double with immediate effect, the country's energy regulatory authority has announced.

The increase of 150% comes a day after the Zimbabwean dollar fell by more than 50% against international currencies.

This happened after the central bank removed a fixed currency exchange rate in place since March, and introduced a weekly foreign exchange auction.

Zimbabwe has been plagued by fuel shortages for years, compounded by a lack of foreign currency.

In January 2019, violent protests broke out when fuel hikes of more than 120% were introduced.

The state crackdown at the time left more than a dozen people dead.