High drama over abduction, currency manipulation as impact of Mugabe death fades

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. A mausoleum is now being built at the top of the Heroes Acre cemetery for Mugabe’s final resting place, with the burial at least one month away. The big question is: where are the billions stolen by Mugabe and will the government get them back?

But the apparent abduction of doctors’ union leader Dr Peter Magombeyi from September 14, 2019, provoked an all-out hospital strike and widespread condemnation of the Mnangagwa government on the eve of his attendance at the UN General Assembly in New York. Then the doctor was found disoriented on September 19, outside Harare, and the Mnangagwa government alleged that the Opposition MDC Alliance and the US Embassy was behind the abduction and by implication, many other recent abductions. The doctor’s mobile phone was operating during the abduction and his Eco cash account was also used, and he was able to make an interview with Voice of America on his re-emergence, but has had no other media contact. While these factors do suggest the abduction was faked, the failure of the police to track the phone or to apprehend any of the masked abductors suggests that they may well be involved.

While the doctor’s disappearance was centre stage, a massive drop in the value of the new Zimbabwe dollar also took place on September 19, from 15 to the US dollar to 23. Costs of basic commodities soared, causing extreme social stress. The Mnangagwa government took the most decisive action yet, by freezing the accounts of four significant companies which were using state funds to massively speculate against the Zimbabwe dollar. The resulting currency collapse further damages the economic credentials of the government. However, the action against close government allies behind the speculation unmasks at least some of the serious differences inside the government, at least some of which relate to the abiding power of the Mugabe family. Overnight the currency reverted to 13 Zim dollars to the US dollar, demonstrating its great vulnerability to a small group of speculators.

While the freezing of these corporate accounts had the desired effect, and exposes the players, no one has yet been arrested.

The wider political stalemate in Zimbabwe continues, with MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa presiding over another by-election loss, and still demanding that he be recognised as the winner of the July 2018 elections as a condition for participation in a national dialogue with the government about how to recover the economy.

Zimbabwe Information Centre
Australia, September 25, 2019