Zimbabwe’s capital calm after two days of rioting

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) —Zimbabwe’s government struggled Wednesday to contain the worst civil unrest since independence. The violence, sparked by rising food prices, spread from the capital to provincial centers.
After two days of rioting, armored trucks patrolled the relatively calm capital, but witnesses said looting spread late Tuesday and early Wednesday to the central towns of Norton, Chegutu and Gweru.
Businesses in Harare that had reopened Wednesday quickly shut down again when police and a military helicopter fired tear gas to disperse crowds gathering on a highway leading into the city.
Police said 300 people had been arrested in Chitungwiza neighborhood after door-to-door searches turned up looted goods.
The riots — prompted by a 21 percent increase in the price of cornmeal — forced the government on Tuesday to send troops to the capital and its volatile suburbs, where looting has been widespread.
It was the first time troops have been dispatched to quell riots since the nation formerly known as Rhodesia became independent in 1980.
Mugabe had warned Tuesday that he would call a state of emergency if rioting continued.
Some bus service resumed in Harare and most businesses in the city center reopened. Military helicopters circled the worst trouble spots.
The government has blamed the unrest on businesses profiteering and on white farmers angry about planned government land seizures designed to put more farmland in the hands of black Zimbabweans.
About 4,000 white farmers own a third of Zimbabwe’s land and produce about half the nation’s food. White farmers contend that giving the 1,480 targeted farms to landless black peasants would cut agriculture production by 40 percent.