Nearly all shops and businesses in Harare are locked and gated today as the #ThisFlag organised mass stay-away grips the city.
There is a heavy police presence across the city. Small groups of riot police are visible on thoroughfares leading into Harare, though the CBD is being monitored by regular police officers, traffic police who are still busy fining motorists, and, allegedly, numerous plain clothes police operating singly or in pairs on street corners.
Some bank branches are open, with the familiar long queues for cash forming from 8am.
Industry is quiet, with factories such as Lobel’s Bread shut down.
There is vastly reduced traffic on the roads, though kombis appear to be operating as usual in central areas of Harare in contrast to violent demonstrations by kombi operators against harassment by traffic police on Monday.
A staff member at Parirenyatwa Hospital casualty department said that “fifty fifty of staff and nurses turned up for work today”.
An alleged government-orchestrated social media blackout seems to have partly taken hold, with WhatsApp services down across the country. Online ITC news site TechZim received confirmation from Econet that WhatsApp is offline, though how and why this has happened remains unclear. What is certain is that WhatsApp has played a critical role in spreading news and information in the build up to today.
Twitter use is extremely high, with #ShutDownZimbabwe2016 and #ZimShutDown currently trending. Twimbos (Zimbabwe Twitter users) are lauding the stay-away as success, and praising Zimbabweans for the peaceful nature of the protest against the misrule of the Zanu PF government.
However, soon after 11:30am, reports indicated that some clashes between protesters and riot police were underway in Mufakose, with five journalists arrested. We will monitor the situation and update you through the day.