Zimbabwe’s president has vowed “heads will roll” if he finds wrongdoing by security forces after a brutal crackdown on protesters in the African country.
Emmerson Mnangagwa says he will investigate reports of violence against demonstrators after the country’s human rights commission said they were “systematically tortured”.
Human rights groups say at least a dozen people were killed amid protests over a steep rise in fuel prices, prompting fears that Zimbabwe is sliding back into authoritarian rule.
Police have so far only confirmed three deaths.
After cutting short an overseas tour due to unrest in his home country, Mr Mnangagwa said violence by security forces was “unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe”.
“Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll.”
Mr Mnangagwa said he defended people’s right to demonstrate but said “this was not a peaceful protest”.
“Wanton violence and cynical destruction; looting police stations, stealing guns and uniforms; incitement and threats of violence,” he said.
“This is not the Zimbabwean way.”
I invite leaders of all political parties as well as religious and civil leaders to set aside our differences and come together. What unites us is stronger than what could ever divide us. Let’s begin a national dialogue. Let’s put the economy first. Let’s put the people first 4/4
Protests erupted last week after Mr Mnangagwa – nicknamed The Crocodile – announced fuel prices would more than double, making Zimbabwe’s petrol the most expensive in the world.
His government has blamed the unrest on the opposition, despite witness accounts of security forces opening fire on crowds and killing or wounding bystanders, including a 17-year-old.
More than 600 people were arrested for alleged public order offences, including at least four politicians from the opposition MDC party.
The Zimbabwe government also blocked access to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and the messaging service WhatsApp.
Evan Mawarire, a pastor who rose to prominence as a critic of former Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe, is among those detained and faces a possible 20-year prison sentence on a subversion charge.
Mr Mawarire’s lawyer said more than 400 people had been denied bail and described the case against his client as a “travesty of justice”.
Before winning a contested election in July, Mr Mnangagwa promised a clean break with the 37-year rule of Mugabe, who used security forces to quell civilian protests before being forced out in a de facto coup in November 2017.
The MDC says Mr Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe ally, is now overseeing a return to authoritarian rule by using the same tactics.