Zimbabwe Security Update:
Riots Break Out Over Currency Shortage
July 29, 2016
On July 4th Zimbabwe's capital of Harare was rocked by riots in the working class neighborhoods of Ruwa, Zimre Park, Hatfield, Epworth and Mabvuku. The Epworth neighborhood experienced the bulk of the unrest as protestors created makeshift roadblocks, started fires in the roadway, and attacked vehicles attempting to enter or exit. The widespread roadblocks prevented the movement of traffic including emergency medical personnel. Initial protests were led by peaceful transit workers who had become fed-up with corrupt police checkpoints which demanded cash payment in excess of $50 USD for road violations. The protests turned violent after police began to beat protestors. The unrest grew as news spread of the police brutality.
Zimbabwe's economy has been in a state of turmoil for decades. A switch to the US dollar in 2009 temporarily stemmed the countries extreme inflation. However, a trade deficit has caused a shortage in the country's supply of paper money. In late June the government announced that banks would not allow any cash withdrawals larger than $100 USD per day. As the vast majority of transactions in the country are completed in cash, this caused an intense strain on the average consumer and likely resulted in excessive police ticketing. The countrywide frustration and rioting reached its height on July 4th but was quickly suppressed by police forces. After the riots were calmed, police searched for and rooted out suspects and organizers, creating additional confrontation. As of current, no further riots are planned but the situation remains tense.
The riots primarily took place in the capital of Harare but small uprisings have occurred throughout the country. The current tension and frustration could lead to further protests, riots, or attacks on financial and government buildings. Travel to Zimbabwe remains open but care should be taken to avoid large groups, gatherings and police operations. Travelers should bring enough cash to last their entire stay and be sure to carry the cash in different locations. Visitors should ensure they have a complete transportation plan in place with their tour operator prior to their arrival. It is advised that all travelers watch news reports closely for further reports of unrest or increasing tension.