Zimbabwe police fire teargas as taxi drivers' protest turns violent

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HARARE (Reuters) - A protest by Zimbabwean taxi drivers against a police crackdown turned violent on Monday when residents joined in and hurled rocks at police, who fired teargas to disperse the rioters.

In the last month, Zimbabwe has witnessed spontaneous protests against government corruption, shortages of money and government plans to circulate local bank notes as the southern African nation struggles with a drought and a slowing economy.

Zimbabwean taxi drivers, along with owners of taxi firms, accuse police of seeking to raise money for their operations by imposing hefty fines on their vehicles, which they say impacts on their business.

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba told reporters that anti-riot police had deployed in two townships outside Harare and arrested 30 people in connection with the violence.

Charamba said “all those who are inciting and engaging in violence that such misconduct will be severely dealt with.”

A Reuters witness said taxi operators teamed up with residents in Epworth township, south of central Harare, to attack police with stones. Police fired teargas, beat up protesters and broke down doors at some houses, saying they were looking for organisers of the protest.

In Mabvuku township, to the east of the capital, police fired teargas as taxi operators blocked roads with stones and burning tyres, taxi driver Aaron Mapani said.

Monday’s clashes come days after residents protested in the border town of Beitbridge, 600 kilometers south of the capital Harare, last Friday against restrictions on imports of basic goods from South Africa.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia and Toby Chopra