WHAT IS HAPPENING IN ZIMBABWE?


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    Written by: Meshack Masibo

    Zimbabwe’s anti-government protest strike have been ongoing in the past month in Zimbabwe leaving the streets of Harare deserted. This came after Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a sharp increase in fuel prices in a measure set to improve supplies as the country struggles with its worst petrol shortage in a decade.In an address on state TV, Mnangagwa says the prices of petrol and diesel will more than double to tackle a shortfall caused by increased fuel usage and illegal trading.

    Mnangagwa, who took over from long-time leader Robert Mugabe and won a disputed election in July, said that petrol prices will rise to $3.31 from $1.24 a litre and diesel prices to $3.11 from $1.36 a litre.The announcement comes after fuel shortages which began in October last year worsened in recent weeks with motorists sometimes spending nights in queues at fuel pumps stretching for kilometres.

    Zimbabweans reacted with outrage to Mnangagwa’s announcement, saying the move would worsen an already difficult economic situation and trigger protests and strikes.The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says the government has demonstrated a lack of empathy for the already overburdened poor.”The government has officially declared its anti-worker, anti-poor and anti-people ideological position.Workers’ salaries have been reduced to nothing and our suffering elevated to another level,” ZCTU said in a statement.

    The labour union immediately called for a three-day national strike.

    The Zimbabwean government deployed riot police in “hot spots” following the ZCTU’s call for a national strike.Zimbabweans – mainly in Harare and Bulawayo – take to the streets. They burn tyres and use rocks to barricade roads and block buses from taking passengers to work.

    Police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse protesters.At least 13 people sustained gunshot wounds as the situation turns violent. The Government then accused the opposition and civil society organisations of being behind the protests, with the country’s National Security Minister Owen Ncube saying that more than 200 people have been arrested in connection with the violence.

    Government spokesperson Nick Mangwanais reported to have said that the opposition, civic groups and foreign organisations are trying to use the fuel shortage and price increases to topple the government.Zimbabwe enters the second day of protests. There are reports that the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been vandalised. It’s not clear who is behind the attack.

    The military was deployed and used a helicopter to fire tear gas at demonstrators in the capital. There is a widespread military operation in major cities, with claims that soldiers are beating up people as they move from house to house, kicking down doors and dragging people out of their homes.Government shuts down the internet to prevent citizens from communicating and organising more protests. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp are disabled.

    Businesses and schools remained shut and public transport was grounded in most of the country despite government assurances that security would be provided.Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa blames the protests on “terrorism”.Tensions continued and there were widespread reports of violence as the country faced a third day of protests.The country’s largest telecom company, Econet, has sent text messages to customers saying it has been forced by the government to shut down internet service.

    This comes at a time when the South African nation is trying to resuscitate its ailing economy. Zimbabwe’s economy has experienced severe challenges over the past decade, reaching crisis proportions in 2007 and 2008. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated to have contracted by a cumulative 50.3 percent; official inflation peaked at 231 million percent in July 2008; capacity utilisation in industry fell below 10 percent by January 2009; poverty remained widespread; infrastructure had deteriorated; the economy had become more informalised; and severe food and foreign currency shortages were experienced. The country also faced sanctions from some western countries and the cessation of funding from the Bretton Woods Institutions.

    The context showed a significant stabilisation and turnaround following the adoption of a multicurrency payments system in February 2009. Other significant macroeconomic contributors to the stabilisation and resuscitation include price liberalisation, removal of surrender requirements on export proceeds, removal of exchange restrictions, the end of Grain Marketing Board (GMB) monopoly, imposition of budget constraints on Parastatals, and the reform of monetary and fiscal policy frameworks and institutions such as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

    After the July 2013 Harmonized Elections in the country, the new Zanu-PF led Government introduced the 2013-3018 Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-economic Transformation (Zim Asset) as the economic development blueprint and turnaround plan for Zimbabwe’s development priorities. Owing to strong partnership and generous financial assistance by development partners, one of the major positive dividends of the economic stabilisation since 2009 was the noticeable improvement of social services delivery across all sectors. However, unpredictable weather conditions, erratic rain patterns and economic restrictions still pose a threat to reverse the gains made thus far.

    To build on the recent gains and in an effort to mitigate effects of climate change and economic challenges, the government and development partners are now focused on development programmes aimed at building resilience and sustainability.

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