By Dylan Murambgi
Harare, July 06, 2016 – ZIMBABWEANS on Wednesday heeded calls by civil servants groups and ordinary Zimbabweans for a national shut-down in protest over poor governance and deteriorating economic conditions which have brought massive joblessness and grinding poverty.
Most shops in Harare’s often busy central business district were closed for business.
The situation was the same with other urban centres such as Bulawayo and Karoi where shops were closed while commuter transport operators parked their vehicles.
Beitbridge, the centre of last Friday’s riotous protests over an import ban on certain products, was equally, dead but the border post, which was forced to shut down during the riots, remained open.
Fuel stations were closed while motorists were stranded and resorted to buying fuel from the black market.
Schools countrywide remained closed as teachers also heeded the strike in protest over unpaid wages.
In Harare, a few commuter omnibuses that tried to maximise on the transport crisis sparked by the shut down, ferried passengers from high density areas and were charging exorbitant fares of between $1 and $2 instead of the usual $0.50.
Government buses which ferry civil servants had heavily armed police details on board, apparently fearing attacks by angry mobs along the way.
Nigerian owned shops, which usually open even on Sundays and other public holidays, were all closed.
Supermarket chain, Food World had its branches closed while some TM branches were opened but with business very slow.
Fast food outlet, Chicken Slice situated at the corner of Speke Avenue and Chinhoyi Street was also closed.
Copacabana bus terminus, usually a hive of activity, was deserted with only a few vehicles in site while traders who usually bring the area to life were conspicuous by their absence.
The situation was also the same at the Ximex Mall in central Harare, a usually busy and congested place where informal traders ply their trade selling cellphones and other wares, was also deserted, with only a handful of people milling around the premises.
Most people who spoke to RadioVOP in the high density suburbs said they had been advised by their bosses not to turn up for work while others said they just felt it was not safe for them and decided to stay home.
“My boss called me early this morning and told me not to come, but even if he had not called me I was not going to go,” said a Dzivaresekwa resident who refused to be identified.
He said the calls for the stay-away were justified as people were being taken for a ride by the government.
Another resident said they had been told to return to work next Monday after the situation would have improved.
“We were asked to come back to work on Monday as the bosses feared that if they opened the shop would be looted,” he said.
In Kuwadzana, along the Harare-Bulawayo road, burning tyres were seen in the middle of the road just before the round about as early as 5 am, while in Mufakose, people burnt tyres in attempts to stop motorists from driving to town.
In nearby Kambuzuma, there was no public transport and the few people who managed to get into town used private vehicles.
Anti-riot police were later deployed in the main roads leading into town although there were no longer people wishing to travel to the city centre.
Some few shops that had opened in the early hours of the morning later closed after it became apparent most people had not bothered to come into town.
The congestion that is synonymous with the rush hour in the Harare central business district was not there as only a few vehicles were seen.
The often busy Harare City Council’s Rowan Martin building which also houses the city’s revenue hall was virtually deserted.
By 11 am on Wednesday, less than a dozen people had visited the place.
Unconfirmed reports indicated that police were involved in running battles with people while a Choppies supermarket in Chitungwiza was reportedly torched.
Citizens also woke up to a Whatsapp which was not functioning amid suspicions government had jammed the popular social media platform.