Harare - Did a popular newsreader on Zimbabwe's state ZBC television channel really believe that Wednesday's nationwide shutdown had failed?
Viewers of ZBC television are asking if Rumbidzai Takawira, who is widely known as NewsBae, agreed with the news she appeared to be dutifully reading out on the main evening news bulletin on Wednesday.
Takawira, 26, is a household name in Zimbabwe. Some viewers openly admit that they only watch the eight o'clock news bulletin to see her. She has said on social media that even her father calls her NewsBae.
Along with the rest of Zimbabwe's state media, ZBC claimed that the shutdown had "failed", although pictures from many towns and cities across the country from Wednesday morning showed largely empty high streets.
Brezhnev Malaba, a former editor of the state-controlled Sunday Mail tweeted: "One of these days, NewsBae will laugh hysterically on live TV. It can't be easy to keep a straight face while reading the ‘news’ at times."
Another tweeted, presumably sarcastically, that it would be a "scary prospect" to be married to a woman like NewsBae. "She will lie to your face and not say anything."
The teasing was mostly gentle: a radio show host tweeted: "Newsbae, stop reading this nonsense. Move on and soar."
The start of Wednesday evening's news bulletin was unusually delayed for around 10 minutes, leading to online speculation that ZBC was "cooking the news".
In fact, activists had earlier circulated a leaked memo to radio stations signed by Obert Muganyura of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. In it, he reminded the stations of broadcasting regulations "that require that you do not incite, encourage or glamourise violence or brutality".
Zanu-PF officials claim that those calling for the shutdown were in fact calling for violence, with Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo claiming "terrorists" were circulating instructions on how to make petrol bombs.
Called by activists, rather than a single political party, Wednesday's stay-away was held after protests in Beitbridge on Friday and parts of Harare on Monday. Anger is growing in the southern African nation over attempts to limit imports of basic goods, the imminent introduction of "bond notes" on the back of a cash shortage and alleged police extortion at roadblocks.
NewBae tweeted on Thursday morning: "My twitter is on fire tjoo. #stayaway"