National demonstrations erupted in January following a deadly strike related to the increase in the price of gasoline.

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National demonstrations erupted in January following a deadly strike related to the increase in the price of gasoline.

Zimbabwe's main opposition group has canceled anti-government protests in the capital Harare at the last minute, after failing to cancel the police ban.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) made the decision after a judge upheld the ban on Friday morning.

A party official said that there would be protests in other cities next week.

The protest was convened to protest the government's management of the economy, but the police said it had evidence of its potential to become violent.

About five million Zimbabweans need food aid, according to the UN.

Shingai Nyoka of the BBC in Harare said that there was a strong police presence where the march was to begin, and that the downtown area was moderate with most shops closed.

A crowd gathered in the center of Harare before the MDC decision was dispersed by the police, the Herald newspaper reported.

Life is worse than under Mugabe

The demonstrations were called to protest the deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe. Power outages last 18 hours a day and inflation is on the rise.

"Today, life in Zimbabwe is worse than under Robert Mugabe," MDC politician Fadzayi Mahere told the BBC.

"People are marching against the difficulties they face, the cost of living has skyrocketed exponentially, and we are in hyperinflation again."

She said democratic freedoms are also under threat.

Earlier this week, at least six members of civil society and the opposition were reportedly abducted and tortured.

According to the NGO Forum on Human Rights in Zimbabwe, victims have been accused of mobilizing people to protest.

Human rights groups accuse state agents of their disappearance, but authorities have denied their involvement.

The United Kingdom and the United States have expressed concerns about the reports.

What is the background?

The protests would have been the first since rallies against gasoline price rises in January led to deadly clashes with troops, during which 12 people were killed.

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Legend of the mediaProtesters barricaded roads during protests over high gas prices in January

The deterioration of the economy has fueled broader grievances with the ruling Zanu-PF party, chaired by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mr. Mnangagwa came to power in November 2017 after longtime President Robert Mugabe was ousted by a military coup.

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President Mnangagwa tries to resurrect the struggling economy

Mr. Mugabe's long-time ally, Mr. Mnangagwa won the elections in July 2018. During the election campaign, he promised democratic reforms and economic recovery after years of decline under Mugabe.

But the mood of hope and change has diminished with the slowing of Zimbabwe's economy.

Inflation is at its highest level in 10 years, reducing Zimbabwean wages and pensions. Shortages of fuel, electricity and water are widespread and the price of bread has increased fivefold since April.

Opposition groups say the president is not keeping his promises after being elected in contested polls.

There are fears, however, that protests in Harare and other major cities will lead to a new wave of police repression similar to that of January.