Police used batons and fired tear gas to break up an anti-government march in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, the latest protest against President Robert Mugabe’s handling of the country’s economic crisis and alleged corruption.
Hundreds of activists gathered outside the finance minister’s office on Wednesday to demand that he abandons plans to introduce local bank notes that will be used alongside the US dollar, a hard currency that is in seriously short supply.
Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 following hyperinflation, adopting a multi-currency system dominated by the dollar.
“We don’t want bond notes because they will wipe out the few US dollars left. They have come to destroy the country. We do not want them,” protester Wesley Chawada said.
Former vice president Joice Mujuru on Tuesday launched a Constitutional Court challenge against the planned introduction of the bond notes, saying it was unconstitutional.
Another group of protesters, calling themselves unemployed university graduates, marched to parliament wearing their graduation gowns.
“We are saying hell no to you,” said Howard Madya, an unemployed graduate, who took part in the protest.
“It’s time for you to resign. It’s time for you to step down. We now need a new blood … We are now saying Mugabe and his corrupt ministers must go. It’s time up,” he said.
Haru Mutasa, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Harare, said the unemployed graduates are frustrated, and are “losing patience.
“They say if the president can’t deliver, then he must go,” Mutasa said.
Police reportedly used batons to beat protesters approaching the parliament building in Harare, and also beat up several journalists covering the protests, smashing a video camera and attacking a journalist’s car, breaking windows and taking a laptop.
“Mugabe just quit, I will forgive you”, read one placard held by a marcher, while another said “No to police state, you have failed Mr Mugabe.”
Mugabe, 92, has held power since the country’s independence from Britain in 1980. He is increasingly under pressure from opponents, as well as his war veterans allies, who last month rebuked him as a manipulative dictator, and called on him to step down.
Street protests have become a near-daily occurrence in the southern African country, which also faces massive unemployment and accusations of corruption.
Mugabe last month said people unhappy with the situation in the country should pack up and leave.
Demonstrators have denounced Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party, accusing it of failing to create up to 2.2 million jobs that it had promised when campaigning during the 2013 presidential vote, which Mugabe won amid opposition charges of rigging.