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Emmerson Mnangagwa Image Credit: AFP

Harare: Update: Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday vowed to investigate the security forces after they launched a brutal crackdown on protesters, activists and organisers of demonstrations that erupted last week.

"Violence or misconduct by our security forces is unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe," he said on Twitter. "Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll."

He also sharply criticised the protests that were marked by rioting and looting.

"Everyone has the right to protest, but this was not a peaceful protest. Wanton violence and cynical destruction; looting police stations, stealing guns and uniforms; incitement and threats of violence," he said. "This is not the Zimbabwean way."

Mnangagwa issued his statement after landing back in Harare, having cut short a foreign tour seeking much-needed investment.


Earlier report

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has landed back in Harare, state television said on Tuesday, after cutting short a foreign tour over nationwide protests that were met with a brutal security crackdown.

Police and soldiers launched a large-scale operation against suspected protestors, activists and organisers of the strike last week, which was triggered by a sharp rise in fuel prices.

I am happy that the country is quiet. Our people should concentrate on their work. There are channels of communication. We want Zimbabwe developed.

- Emmerson Mnangagwa, President

At least 12 people were killed and 78 treated for gunshot injuries, according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, which recorded more than 240 incidents of assault and torture.

About 700 people have been arrested.

"I am happy that the country is quiet. Our people should concentrate on their work," Mnangagwa said after landing late on Monday night. "There are channels of communication. We want Zimbabwe developed."

The High Court in Harare ruled Monday that government had no powers to order the shutdown of the internet which was imposed as protests swept across the country.

Handing down judgement in a case brought by human rights lawyers and journalists, judge Owen Tagu said: "It has become very clear that the minister had no authority to make that directive".

Internet and social media appeared to be partially returning to normal on Tuesday morning.

Economic crisis 

Mnangagwa, who was seeking much-needed foreign investment on his tour, scrapped plans to attend the Davos summit of world leaders this week.

He had visited Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan before cutting his trip short.

Mnangagwa, 76, had pledged a fresh start for the country when he came to power in November 2017 after Robert Mugabe was toppled, ending 37 years in office that were marked by authoritarian rule and economic collapse.

But Zimbabweans have seen little evidence of the promised economic revival or increased political freedoms.

The UN human rights' office criticised the government's reaction to the protests.

The violent demonstrations erupted on January 14 after Mnangagwa announced petrol prices would more than double in a country that suffers daily shortages of banknotes, fuel, food and medicine.

He flew to Russia soon after making that announcement in a televised address to the nation.

Accused of conducting a deadly crackdown on dissent, the army and police denied any wrongdoing, saying some assailants raiding homes were wearing official uniforms to pose as security personnel.

Mugabe, now 94, ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist from independence from Britain in 1980 until 14 months ago.

The military, fearing that Mugabe's wife, Grace, was being lined up to succeed him, seized control and forced him to resign before ushering Mnangagwa to power.