Soldiers deployed in Zimbabwe as unrest continues amid growing food crisis

  • Video report by ITV News Security Editor Rohit Kachroo

In Zimbabwe anti-government sentiment has been on the rise, with the economy in freefall and a growing food crisis. 

Protests are currently banned by coronavirus lockdown rules, to limit the spread of Covid-19, so with demonstrations planned for today the President's security services were out in force.

Their presence was enough to keep many off the streets, but there were still those who put on a show of defiance and ignored those warnings. But videos shared on social media appeared to show a soldier beating a citizen in the run up to the day of action.

Demonstrations are taking place across in Zimbabwe during unrest. Credit: ITV News

It comes as the government is accused of using the pandemic as a cover to crush its opponents, rather than the virus itself.

The author, Tsitsi Dangarembga, a nominee for this year's Booker Prize, was among those arrested.

She was said to have been bundled into a police lorry while carrying placards.

Award-winning novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga's most recent tweets. Credit: ITV News Graphics

Ms Dangarembga posted a picture with a friend shortly afterwards and then wrote: "May not be able to tweet for a while".

The case of a former ITV News journalist arrested earlier this month has helped to focus attention.Hopewell Chin'ono is an award winning reporter, now he's just another inmate in a Harare prison cell.

His supporters saying he was taken off the streets so his exposes of government corruption could be silenced in the run-up to the planned protests.

Hopewell Chin'ono is an award winning reporter, now he's just another inmate in a Harare prison cell. Credit: ITV News

The World Food Programme is warning Zimbabwe is on the brink of a starvation crisis as most of the population is threatened by hunger.The food-assistance branch of the United Nations is calling for international support to prevent what it calls a potential humanitarian catastrophe. 

A nationwide lockdown has led to massive joblessness in urban areas, while hunger in rural areas is on the rise due to the return of now unemployed migrants to their villages and the absence of vital remittances.

Hyperinflation has pushed the prices of basics beyond the means of many Zimbabweans.These struggles for survival - for power and for life - were meant to end when Robert Mugabe's presidency was ended three years ago.

But his replacement, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is said by opponents to have offered little hope.