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Fastjet cancels flights to Zimbabwe citing unrest

by Staff reporter
14 Jan 2019 at 21:38hrs | Views
LOW-COST African airline Fastjet cancelled its remaining flights to and from Zimbabwe on Monday due to political unrest, it said in a statement on Twitter.

The airline – which flies from Harare to Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Johannesburg – said all eight scheduled flights were cancelled.

A statement issued Monday afternoon by the airline read: "Fastjet Zimbabwe advises that flights for the remainder of the day to and from Harare, Zimbabwe, will be cancelled due to the current unrest affecting travel on the streets of Harare, and in particular to and from Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

"Affected customers will be allowed to change their bookings to a later date as long as travel is completed before 22 January 2019. Change fees will be waivered. Airfare differences may apply if the same fare is not available.

"The airline is making all efforts to contact affected customers. We will endeavour to minimise disruptions whilst still ensuring that the safety and security of our customers and staff remains a top priority. Further updates will be issued."

Protesters barricaded roads and burned tyres in Zimbabwe's capital Harare on Monday, as anger over the worst economic crisis in a decade spilled onto the streets and piled pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa, to pre-empt street protests on Saturday, issued a threat to the "certain elements" which he said were bent on taking advantage of the fuel shortages to "cause and sponsor unrest and instability" in the country.

Police appeared overwhelmed by the protesters, whose march first began in townships but quickly reached the city centre. The water cannons and teargas appeared to be no deterrent. When police threw teargas canisters at protesters, they just picked them up and hurled them back at the police.

A crew of journalists hired a taxi in an attempt to move into the heart of demonstrations in the city centre, but the protesters who toyi-toyied threw missiles at them — afraid that their faces would be photographed and used later to track them down by authorities.

Other innocent passersby who got entangled in the protests said they were concerned with their violent nature, a deviation from the peaceful call which had been made.

Along Masiyephambili Drive, which links most high-density suburbs with the city centre, overwhelmed and outnumbered police began to retreat from their position by midday.

"We can't guarantee your safety. The people are angry. We are going back to the station because they outnumber us," a police officer told journalists.

The usually quiet Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo was turned into a mixture of teargas, black smoke from burning tyres and chanting of struggle songs on Monday as residents joined in protests over the latest fuel hike.

"Into oyenzayo siyayizonda" – which loosely translates to "we hate what you are doing" – was the battle cry among protesters who took to the streets to express their displeasure at the worsening economic environment in South Africa's northern neighbour.

The protest was unmistakably directed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been at the helm since November 2017 after his ousting of Robert Mugabe.

A fuel hike announced by Mnangagwa on Saturday, a day before he left for Russia, was the final straw for most protesters. Fuel prices more than doubled overnight.

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