President Emmerson Mnangagwa has abandoned his five-nation European tour citing the bad economic situation back home where several people have been killed and hundreds arrested following streets protests over the high cost of living.
Some observers, including British Labor lawmaker Kate Hoey, claimed that Mnangagwa cut short his visit due to a fall out with military hardliner retired General Constantino Chiwenga over governance matters amid a nationwide crackdown on protesters.
In a tweet, Mnangagwa wrote on his official Twitter account, "ln light of the economic situation, l will be returning home after a productive week of bilateral trade and investment meetings. We will be ably represented in Davos by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube. The first priority is to get Zimbabwe calm, stable and working again."
The president was expected to attend this year’s edition of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Some disgruntled Zimbabweans had set up an online petition aimed at blocking Mnangagwa from attending the meeting, questioning his move to rub shoulders with world leaders while local people are being brutalized by state security agents.
Responding to Mnangagwa’s tweet, Hoey said, "So edmnangagwa leaves Davos for a country in crisis and romours General Chiwenga plotting a coup. Harare in shutdown with military everywhere.”
Peter Hain, former British Labor Party Member of Parliament for for Neath, said in a tweet, "Absolutely tragic. Promised new Zimbabwe @Emmerson Mnangagwa goes up in flame & Mugabe-sytle repression confirming all the skeptics and proving those like me willing him a chance wrong. What's will @SADC do now?"
At the same time, Movement for Democratic Change leader Nelson Chamisa has appealed to the Southern African Development Community and African Union to stop the political crisis in Zimbabwe where some people have been killed, hundreds injured and at least 600 arrested following protests last week.
In a Twitter message, Chamisa said, "Our country is going through one of its worst moments. Despite the vitrol, we maintain a dignified position befitting our role as led by the people. We remain committed to peace in solving the challenge that triggered the turmoil."
In a post on his Facebook account on Wednesday, Mnangagwa said he was saddened by the “wanton violence and cynical destruction” during the protests.
Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, said on state television Tuesday that the demonstrations amounted to “terrorism” and were “well-coordinated” by the opposition.
But Chamisa’s party dismissed these remarks, saying Mnangagwa's government should be punished by the United Nations for “terrorizing hundreds of innocent civilians who want peace and are demanding freedom”.
MDC chairperson Tabitha Khumalo told VOA Zimbabwe Service that armed police and other state security agents raided her home in the country's second largest city, Bulawayo, where they found a maid.
"I'm told that the state security agents were from the police's Law and Order Department who were accompanied by heavily armed soldiers. I was not a home when they got home. I'm asking for your prayers.”
Most opposition members are currently in hiding following reports that they are being sought by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and police.
The protests were sparked by fuel price increases of 150% announced last week by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.