Reports of Zimbabwe blocking social media, WhatsApp as protests rage

A police officer removes tyres set by protesters during a

A police officer removes tyres set by protesters during a "stay-away" demonstration against the doubling of fuel prices on January 14, 2019 in Emakhandeni township, Bulawayo. - Zimbabwe's President on January 12 announced a more than 100 percent rise in the price of petrol and diesel in a move to improve supplies as the country struggles with its worst fuel shortages in a decade. In the city of Bulawayo, demonstrators attacked minibuses heading to the city centre and used burning tyres and stones to block the main routes into town. (Photo by Zinyange AUNTONY / AFP)

The country’s government has been accused of blocking access to the internet amid violent protests.

Zimbabweans on social media are complaining that the Zimbabwean government is blocking social media and WhatsApp as violent protests over a massive fuel hike continue to grip the country.

One user complained on Twitter of their WhatsApp being blocked. Twitter still seemed accessible at the time.

Since then, another user alleges Twitter was blocked as well, saying she was only able to send the tweet out as she used a virtual private network (VPN).

Another user tweeted information on how to set up and use a VPN to bypass the alleged blocking of social media and private messaging apps.

Chaos has gripped the country as citizens react to a massive fuel hike with violent protests. Although an exact death toll has not been confirmed, some reports indicate at least four may have died so far.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, meanwhile, has left for Russia, starting a tour of five countries that will culminate in his attendance at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The hike, announced by Mnangagwa just after midnight on Saturday, has seen petrol and diesel prices more than double. They were at R19 a litre and are now at R45 a litre.

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Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former deputy and veteran of the ruling ZANU-PF party, has faced a new wave of turmoil since last year, as prices rocket and shortages spread, from bread to fuel.

In October, before he was inaugurated, Zimbabwe’s new president urged citizens to stay calm as drivers queued for hours for rationed petrol and those with money stockpiled any food for sale.

The shortages have reportedly created a thriving black market, with a litre of cooking oil being sold on the street for up to $12 instead of $3.70.

(Additional reporting by ANA)

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