Political tensions escalate, involving US, as economic impact of COVID-19 deepens

The people of Zimbabwe are facing ever greater
hunger due to another poor harvest and the COVID-19 lockdown and its broader
impacts. The World Food Program is expanding its feeding program in response.
But the galloping inflation, reaching 765 per cent in the year to April, has
robbed the people of their purchasing power, and the economy is expected to
contract another 10 per cent in the 2020-21. The Reserve Bank and the
Government have effectively surrendered in the face of this calamity, and have
allowed the economy to return to use of the US dollar, allowing the Zimbabwe
dollar to float. It immediately fell from 25 to the US dollar to 80. Public
service wages continue at impossibly low levels.

In this situation, rumours of a possible coup
have taken on more force, though it hasn’t materialised. The Mugabe-aligned G40
faction of ZANU-PF, with apparent US backing, is stoking this situation.

However, the most recent event – the alleged
abduction and torture of three young MDC Alliance women leaders on May 13, 2020
– has come unstuck. Evidence from shopping centre CCTV and mobile phone records
has led to charges being laid against the three women that they staged their
own abduction for political reasons. This has caused angry exchanges between
human rights advocates from different NGOs, and the government is alleging a
“third force” behind recent abductions.

Alongside this the MDC Alliance led by Nelson
Chamisa continues to lose in the battle to occupy the party headquarters,
Harvest House, and even to maintain a boycott of parliament by MDC Alliance
MPs.

The US Embassy is connected to one of the
abduction events and has led diplomatic protests at the abductions. The angry
exchanges between the US Ambassador and Zimbabwe government ministers reached a
high pitch as the Black Lives Matter protests rolled through the USA following
the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Zimbabwe
Information Centre, Australia
June 21, 2020