Fears of civil turmoil grow

HARARE - 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.

People protest in Ruwa on Monday. Pic: Annie Mpalume

“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.

Police make door-to-door arrests to quell protests in Epworth on Monday. Pic: Annie Mpalume

“We, the hospital doctors, wish to inform you that due to financial constraints we are unable to report for duty from 1 July 2016. We understand that the situation is being rectified, but we on our part are unable to meet the transport costs, cannot put food on the table as most of us are the sole breadwinners in our families,” the medical practitioners said in a statement.

“We are also failing to pay for our rentals and bills. While we are going to receive $100 in advance, it will not be enough to cover food, rentals and our families’ subsistence. It is because of these financial constraints that we are communicating with you our inability to report for work from July 1, till we receive our salaries,” they said.

On its part, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association has also advised its members of tomorrow strike, issuing a circular which was copied to all relevant authorities.

Meanwhile, some observers have been taken aback by some ill-advised statements by State Security minister Kembo Mohadi, who surprisingly not only blamed Friday’s Beitbridge riots on an alleged third force, but also curiously accused the police of not having contained the riots on time.

Mohadi, who is in charge of the Central Intelligence Organisation, comes from Beitbridge and represents Beitbridge East in parliament.

And speaking in Victoria Falls, Zimra acting boss Happias Kuzvinzwa called for stern action to be taken against public dissent.

“The issue around statutory instrument (SI) 164 and the standoff happening in Beitbridge is beyond disappointing. When laws are put in place they are there for a reason and a people that fight against laws need to be dealt with,” he said.

“Protesting will not help anyone, in fact, it will just destroy the infrastructure and leave the country in an unfortunate state of under-development,” Kuzvinzwa said.

Many analysts also said the ongoing cash shortages and long bank queues, looming food shortages, the ban on the importation of basic commodities, an inevitable rise in basic food prices and the broke government’s failure to pay angry civil servants their June salaries did not bode well for continuing peace and stability in the country.

But Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha, who recently evoked SI 64 -- banning the importation of coffee creamers, white petroleum jellies, baked beans, cereals, bottled water, salad cream, peanut butter, maheu, canned fruits and vegetables, yoghurts, flavoured milk, cultured milk and cheese, among other products -- has insisted that the ban would remain in place despite the weekend riots in Beitbridge.

“Government will not reverse the ban on basic goods imports simply because there are a few people demonstrating. While the decision could be hurting them it is important to also realise that it is in the interest of the wider economy.

“For a long time, government has not been taking action on these people while the country was being reduced to a supermarket. It could hurt four people but help 4 000 and that is not a problem because the few selfish individuals are killing the local industry,” he told the Daily News’ sister paper, the Daily News On Sunday, yesterday.

Friday’s riots erupted after protesters were enraged by what they claimed was “insensitivity” on the part of the Zanu PF administration which has made it almost impossible for people to import even basic foodstuffs.

    Comments (9)

    we will not brook any nonsense,these rioters must not take the peace prevailing in the country for granted,i urge the police to heavily descend on these troublemakers so that all citizens are free to go about their daily business

    truth - 4 July 2016

    Out of touch...protesting will not help anyone? It is a right to protest, how else will you know the mood of the people if they don't protest? You gloat when they are cowed into silence and you see it as license to do as you please, the incompetent and the corrupt in equal measure all find refuge in zanu the party and the government it leads. The genie looks like is coming out of the bottle. Woe are you because once its out there it is unpredictable and uncontrollable like a wild fire.

    Galore - 4 July 2016

    Time is up!

    Mazano Rewayi - 4 July 2016

    mugabe must go klara full stop . people are tired mann mawar vets akarwa hondo koz vaidzvanyirirwa nevachena now todzvanyirirwa namugabe weganda

    peacemaker - 4 July 2016

    This truth lunatic is one of craziest fool on mother earth,The right to protest is a piece of legislation enshrined in our Zimbabwean constitution if u didn"t know you little piece of shit.The fact that you do not subscribe to the cause of their protest does not mean that it is wrong for them to protest.You can as well stage your own protest against them if you so wish to.Thats the law Dumb one.

    Janana wa Bikaz - 5 July 2016

    @Truth you are a stupid idiotic,demonic rabid vampire. You are toosilly, unoda kuongororwa demhe raimbova ne njere dzakaora. Uriduzvi

    ishe Nehoreka - 5 July 2016

    Uyo truth akwakwana here?

    Linda Ndlovu -UZ - 5 July 2016

    Uyo truth akwakwana here?

    Linda Ndlovu -UZ - 5 July 2016

    @Truth You must be the dumbest person on earth. This regime's time is up. They must go. It is time for all citizens to rise. Tomorrow, Wednesday 6 July is the mass stay away organised by pastor Evans Mawarire. Please don't go to work.

    Stupid Truth - 5 July 2016

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