US wants Zimbabwe forces 'held accountable' for violence

The US has told Zimbabwe that there is an "urgent need to hold security forces accountable for acts of violence" earlier this year and last year.

Six people were shot dead in August 2018 as opposition protesters complaining about the election result clashed with security forces.

At the beginning of this year local rights groups said at least 12 people had been killed and many more beaten during demonstrations triggered by a hike in fuel prices.

At the time a government spokesperson said this was "a foretaste of things to come".

The US' top diplomat in Africa, Tibor Nagy, has tweeted that he brought the incidents up with President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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The US assistant secretary for African affairs met the president on the sidelines of a US-Africa meeting in Mozambique, AFP news agency reports.

He said the US wanted to see "real political and economic reforms".

When Mr Mnangagwa came to power in November 2017, after the ouster of long-time President Robert Mugabe, there were high hopes that he would make big changes.

Some have criticised the president for not moving fast enough.

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Mnangagwa gets his broom out

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa donned protective clothing to take part in a national clean-up campaign in a poor area of the capital, Harare.

A video shared by the ministry of information shows the president sweeping up litter in a gutter. His face is obscured by a mask but you can tell it's him because of his trademark scarf:

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Mr Mnangagwa follows in the footsteps of Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who helped sweep the streets of the main city Dar es Salaam in December 2015.

According to the responses on Twitter, people are not so impressed with the Zimbabwean president's efforts.

@ssyyddoo tweeted: "Why not sweep the corrupt government and stop all this child play."

And other people responded saying that the president should be focusing on the economy.

White farmers register for Zimbabwe compensation

BBC World Service

Image of a tractor in Zimbabwe

The authorities in Zimbabwe say more than 730 white former farmers have registered to receive government compensation in relation to land seized nearly 20 years ago.

Those considered eligible will each receive an interim payment of $10,000 (£7,900). The farmers believe they are owed up to $9bn in total.

But the authorities say only improvements will be compensated for - not the land itself, which they argue was seized illegally during colonial rule.

Thousands of white farmers were forced from their farms between 2000-2001, as part of former President Robert Mugabe's policy to give land to the majority black population.

The move was blamed for the country's economic collapse and received international condemnation, resulting in sanctions from the US and EU.

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Warning Zimbabwe power cuts could worsen

Shingai Nyoka

BBC Africa, Harare

A lit candle surrounded by darkness

Zimbabwe's largest hydro-electric power plant has warned it could suspend electricity output completely if water levels at the Kariba dam continue to fall.

Zimbabweans are already without power for up to 10 hours a day, largely as a result of a devastating drought.

The power utility company is owed more than $200m (£159m) by the government and individuals.

The authorities say that if some of this money is repaid, electricity imports from South Africa could resume.

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Zimbabwe's 'Black Russian' freedom fighter dies

Shingai Nyoka

BBC Africa, Harare

Dumiso Dabengwa pictured in 2017
Dumiso Dabengwa faced treason charges in the 1980s

Dumiso Dabengwa, a Zimbabwean politician and a former spy chief for freedom fighters in the war against white-minority rule, has died aged 79.

Nicknamed the “Black Russian” - as he had trained in the then-Soviet Union, Dabengwa died in Kenya on his return from India where he had gone for medical treatment, according to the New Zimbabwe news site.

He was a member of the Zapu, one of the two groups that fought for independence. Robert Mugabe’s Zanu went on to win Zimbabwe’s first election in 1980 - and not long afterwards his government charged Dabengwa with treason after the discovery of an arms cache. Mr Mugabe, then prime minster, accused Zapu leaders of planning a revolt.

At the same time, Mr Mugabe deployed a brigade of North Korean-trained troops to the southern Matabeleland province, in an operation nicknamed Gukurahundi in which thousands of civilians were killed - the darkest chapter of Zimbabwe’s post-independence history.

Dabengwa was acquitted of treason but was imprisoned for years after that without trial. He was later appointed home affairs minister by Mr Mugabe after a peace and unity pact saw Zanu and Zapu merge into Zanu-PF.

Dabengwa left Zanu-PF to revive and lead Zapu in 2008, supporting key opposition leaders in successive elections.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was Mr Mugabe’s spymaster during the time of Gukurahundi, has tweeted that Dabengwa made a huge contribution to Zimbabwe as a liberation fighter and minister.

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As one of the last surviving nationalist leaders, his death is a remainder of the passing of an era and of the generation that fought to liberate Zimbabwe.

Read: The bones that haunt a country

Five charged over alleged plot against Zimbabwe president

Shingai Nyoka

BBC Africa, Harare

Five NGO workers in Zimbabwe have been charged with plotting to overthrow the government.

They appeared before a Harare magistrate, where they were alleged to have received training in the Maldives in acts of terrorism and civil disobedience.

The state says they had attended a workshop there organised by a Serbian group.

The five were arrested at Harare airport on their return.

The state believes they were trained to operate firearms and to mobilise citizens to turn against the government and to evade arrest.

The police say others are still at large. The five deny the charges.

Their lawyers accuse President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of targeting human rights defenders and citizens.

Emmerson Mnangagwa
Getty Images
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government is accused of targeting human rights defenders

Petrol prices soar in Zimbabwe

Shingai Nyoka

BBC Africa, Harare

For the second time in four months, the authorities in Zimbabwe have raised the price of fuel.

In January 2019, there were violent protests in the country's biggest cities when petrol prices more than doubled, making them the most expensive in the world.

This time around, prices have have been hiked up by a further 50%.

Authorities say they have simply removed fuel subsidies as Zimbabwe struggles to source foreign currency to pay for fuel and electricity imports.

In a tweet, Ministry of Finance official George Guvamatanga said the government has reduced the tax to be paid on fuel to avoid higher price rises.

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For the majority of Zimbabweans whose salaries have not kept up with inflation, this means food and transport costs will become even more difficult to meet.

When President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over power in 2017, he promised a new era of prosperity.

Many here now fear a return to the dark years under the former leader Robert Mugabe.

A protesters burns tyres on a road during a demonstration in Bulawayo, in January 2019.
The last price hike in January sparked widespread protests