HARARE, ZIMBABWE —
Tensions are climbing in cash-strapped Zimbabwe.
Civil servants took heed for a call to strike Wednesday after their wages went unpaid for a third time in the past year.
A court released former ZANU-PF official Acie Lumumba on $400 bail Wednesday on charges of publicly insulting President Robert Mugabe last week.
His lawyer, Arshelie Mugiya, said free speech was under attack in Zimbabwe, despite it being guaranteed in the country's constitution. Mugiya wants the law struck down that protects the 92-year-old Zimbabwean leader from being insulted.
"The [law], under which [Lumumba] is charged from, is not only incompetent but also unconstitutional,” he said.
Dozens of arrest
For the past week, Zimbabwe has been rocked by protests. More than 100 protesters who were arrested Monday in Harare won’t know the outcome of their bail application until Thursday.
Armed Zimbabwean police battle rioters in Harare, July, 4, 2016. The violence came amid a surge in protests in recent weeks because of economic hardships and alleged mismanagement by the government of President Robert Mugabe.
On Wednesday, Zimbabwe police spokesman Charity Charamba told journalists that about 50 people had been arrested in connection with the "Shutdown Zimbabwe 2016" campaign, which called for Zimbabweans to stay away from work to push the government to address the current economic meltdown. Among those arrested was an Australian in the resort town of Victoria Falls.
"Police officers were firmly on the ground and were in uniform around towns and cities,” Charamba said. “Obviously the military is not there because, in our assessment, for now the situation has not deteriorated to warrant the presence of the military. If we require the military, we will call them."
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it is assisting several protesters.
The government issued a statement Wednesday asking Zimbabweans to stop "abusing" social media by posting photos or messages about the unrest.