Zimbabwe’s security forces sealed the country’s major cities without notice amid claims of plots to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
Armed soldiers and police set up checkpoints on major roads in Harare, Bulawayo and Kwekwe beginning Monday.
Government buses – the only mode of public transport allowed under a lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19- were being forced to drop off passengers at the check points.
They were only allowed to proceed with health workers and members of security forces.
The government has issued conflicting statements on the heightened security clampdown, but President Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba said it was meant to stop an uprising.
On the other hand, lnformation minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the military activities were linked to the ongoing lockdown to slow down the spread of coronavirus.
“As much as our president has opened the economy, we will make sure that we adhere to the containment measures, otherwise the disease will spread,” Mrs Mustvangwa said.
“We are still telling our people to stay at home and only go out when necessary.
“What the police are doing is in line with what the (Covid-19) taskforce put in place and we are singing from the same hymn book.”
Army spokesman Overson Mugwisi said the military was only helping police to enforce lockdown regulations.
The military activities also coincided with threats of protests by civil servants over salary cuts.
In Harare, health workers from one of the largest referral hospitals on Wednesday staged a peaceful protest over poor work conditions.
Unions representing other government workers also threatened to roll out protests in the coming days. A week ago security chiefs issued a statement disassociating themselves from alleged rumours of an ‘imminent’ coup.
The military said the rumours were being spread by members of the former regime of the late Robert Mugabe and the opposition.
President Mnangagwa’s government is under increasing pressure to deal with a worsening economic situation characterised by raging inflation.
Zimbabwe’s inflation surged to 785.55 percent year-on-year in May from 765.57 percent the previous month as the government grapples with a weakening currency.
As of Wednesday, Zimbabwe had recorded 391 Covid-19 cases with four deaths.