There was a relatively strong attendance of ordinary Zimbabweans at the public viewing of deceased former President Robert Mugabe, but far fewer at the formal ceremony attended by African leaders. In death the dictator continues to cause havoc, with a serious conflict over his rites and final burial between the family and the clan, and between the family and the Mnangagwa government. His widow, Grace Mugabe, is reportedly asking for the transfer of titles to several mansions from ZANU-PF to the family.
Robert Mugabe has died a corrupt tyrant who plundered his country for billions of dollars for himself and a small circle of cronies.
Robert Mugabe did lead the liberation movement against the white minority rule of the Smith regime, which achieved change in 1980 when for the first time all Zimbabweans could vote for their government. This is the achievement to be remembered and built on – equality and democracy.
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa was pursuing international support at the World Economic Forum meeting in Cape Town when deadly violence broke out against Nigerians, Zimbabweans, Kenyans and others in Pretoria and Johannesburg this
week. South Africa is sub-Sahara’s wealthiest country yet it has been repeatedly the scene of racist communal violence because certain political groups can whip up the great frustration at widespread poverty and growing inequality. How more so is this the case in Zimbabwe?!
The action by the police - backed up by the court - to ban the MDC Alliance protests in Harare on August 16, and in other cities in the following days, combined with the police violence in Harare, has kept the country deadlocked on how to go forward. The deadly violence of August 1 2018 and January 14 2019 poisoned the possibility of a normal democratic process this time. The Mnangagwa government has shrunk the political space it provided in the period from the removal of Mugabe in November 2017 through to the election of July 31 2018.
The economic collapse in Zimbabwe continues to deepen, with the government suspending publication of inflation figures until next February, and a prediction of at least a 3 per cent contraction in the economy overall – a recession. Electricity, water, cash, fuel and food are in short supply. Government moves to import more electricity, to pay public servants on time, and to resolve economic bottlenecks are just not enough to move the economy forward.
The Mnangagwa government continues to talk up its economic strategy, while the reality of power failures, fuel shortages, job losses and high inflation continues to hurt the community. The MDC and the trade union movement (ZCTU) are planning a new round of mass protests in response, in mid-August. In turn, government ministers have threatened military force to “crush” the protests. MDC refuses to accept the July 2018 national election result, and will not enter a dialogue with the government over a pathway to national recovery.
June 24 is the day that the Zimbabwe Dollar was reinstated and transactions in foreign currency were banned, as the Mnangagwa government struggled to eliminate price manipulation and black market currency exchange that has been fueling 100 per cent inflation. There was a run on banks as some citizens tried to withdrew foreign currency, but this abated after two days. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and a teacher union threatened a strike unless the measure was withdrawn. Tajamuka threatened a five-day stayaway from July 1, to culminate in a mass protest.
Electricity shortages have added to the burden of high inflation – now 100 per cent - and cash shortages in Zimbabwe, provoking a nurses go-slow action and widespread calls for wages to be paid in US dollars. Threats of mass protests during June have not eventuated, perhaps partly because of pre-emptive arrests of activists, and neutralised by some progress on the national dialogue. Both US and EU diplomats have made encouraging statements about the government’s economic program and law reform program, and the Tripartite Negotiating Forum is taking shape.
Zimbabwe security forces have cracked down hard with the arrest of seven civil society activists returning to the country from workshops in Prague and the Maldives amid rumours of violent mass protests against the government in June. Statements from newly confirmed MDC President Nelson Chamisa and from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions promising big protests contributed to the tense atmosphere, while public patience has been severely stretched by ongoing electricity outages and skyrocketing fuel prices.
The MDC Congress due to be held in Gweru next week on May 24 appears to be a triumphal platform for Nelson Chamisa, and it appears he will use it to return to his demand that elected National President Mnangagwa share power with him, perhaps this time for the good of the country rather than Chamisa’s worn out claim that he won the July 2018 presidential election. On his part, Mnangagwa has launched a wider national dialogue, open to all stakeholders and not only political parties.