There are growing fears that the country’s worsening economic crisis could soon degenerate into complete chaos and lead to deadly civil unrest, as President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF typically fumble for lasting solutions to the deepening rot.
Analysts and leading political figures who spoke to the Daily News yesterday warned that Zimbabwe could experience “a long winter of discontent”, pointing out to the deadly riots which paralysed Beitbridge Border Post last Friday, as well as tomorrow’s planned strike by teachers, nurses and doctors as “tell-tale signs of impending chaos”.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Tendai Biti did not mince his words, saying bluntly that “the wheels have come off”, and adding that the Zanu PF centre could no longer hold.
“The protest movement is as welcome as it is long overdue. Zimbabweans now understand that they cannot out source or delegate their future to a political party or leader. They now understand that they are their own liberators, just like Moses is only found in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and not any other epistle,” the ex-Finance minister said.
“Zanu PF and Mugabe should resign and pave way for a transitional authority that will provide a soft landing for the country. If that does not happen, then we are headed for an implosion in the form of a military coup or civil war,” Biti said.
The tough-talking lawyer said Zimbabwe was “in the grip of a huge structural recession” which pointed to a looming and massive shrinking of the economy that would be worse than that experienced in 2008.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, a director of the respected Zimbabwe Democracy Institute local think tank, told the Daily News that the current feeling of discontent sweeping across the country was similar to the climate which had led to the formation of the MDC in the late 1990s.
The academic and democracy activist -- who also says that there have been “tectonic and monumental” political shifts in Zimbabwe over the past decade -- added that it could be argued that the country’s opposition parties and civic movements were failing to support the current agitation for a better life by ordinary citizens.
“What’s missing (as Zimbabweans protest) are civil society groups, political groups and others to come together so that all the protests become one. And if an implosion is to be avoided, there is need for a reform of the country’s politics and economics,” Ruhanya said.
“If the government does not answer people’s questions on how they will survive, then people will take the law into their own hands. If the anger is not handled well, there is the possibility of an implosion and a national revolt. The only way government can avert this situation is to reform, and fundamentally democratise politics and the economy,” he said.
At the same time, the Occupy Africa Unity Square movement – whose founder Itai Dzamara was abducted by suspected State security agents early last year and has not been seen since then – said it would soon spread its protests nationwide.
“We are magnifying our campaign through mobilising like-minded youths nationwide. We are certainly continuing with our demonstrations. We are no longer going to stay in the square, but will now only meet there for one hour between 5pm to 6pm,” Patson Dzamara, younger brother to missing activist, said.
“In undertaking our struggle, the #5to6 sessions will continue to be our flagship campaign and we will be rolling it out in the coming weeks across the country. Our demands remain very clear and among our demands are the immediate resignation of Mugabe and his entire cabinet for failing to run the affairs of this country, the repayment of the stolen $15 billion diamond revenue and the arrest and incarceration of the perpetrators,” he said.
“We are also demanding the fulfilment of the 2,2 million jobs promised in 2013 by Mugabe and an immediate end to privatisation of social services and increased public expenditure on social services to ensure accessible quality education, health, water and welfare programmes for the vulnerable groups and an end to anti-worker policies and legislation,” Dzamara said.
And as all this pressure is being brought to bear on the government, restive civil servants who are protesting the continuing staggering of their salaries will tomorrow hold an indefinite strike, to press Mugabe’s administration to pay them now.