Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe turned 83 a week ago. While he celebrated at a lengthy gala in Gweru, which was forced on residents and school children there, police issued a repressive ban on rallies and demonstrations in Harare. The ban, the regime's latest measure at calming an incessent tide of anger, is evidence that there are deep cracks and fissures in the nation's foundations as Eddie Cross notes;
The situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated sharply in the past few days. The government has imposed a ban on public meetings, the strikes are continuing with the State run hospitals now completely paralysed, Doctors and Nurses refuse to go back to work. The Universities are due to open on Monday but staff is on strike and there are no signs of compromise. Students plan to join the strike on Monday in support of their lecturers and demanding attention to the stark conditions under which they are living. The ZCTU has announced a national strike in a month’s time and the State Security Minister has threatened them with dire action.
Now a form of curfew is being imposed on the high-density townships across the country in an effort to bring the situation under control. These are clearly signs of panic in the realms of government.
Tomorrow should be the start of a 4-month freeze on prices and wages – however I understand the proposal has been abandoned as being simply unworkable. No statements are forthcoming from the authorities and to say the least, there is considerable confusion in business and Union circles. The Governor of the Reserve Bank speaks of a ‘Social Contract’ but none exists.
However, the most serious indicator of collapse is in the open market price of foreign exchange. Driven by the frantic efforts of people to buy foreign exchange in any form for a variety of needs from education fees to water chemicals for the Cities and those who want to externalize or even protect their assets. No one wants to hold local money – and the options are the stock market, foreign exchange and assets such as property or simply business stocks.
The ruling party, ZANU-PF, is not in a much better state than the country they have pillaged for so long as This is Zimbabwe finds in their analysis of ZANU-PF since their last congress late last year,
In reality, for Zanu PF and for Robert Mugabe in particular, this was a political defeat of the same magnitude as the result of the referendum on the new constitution in the year 2000, when the electorate served notice that the days of an effective one party state were over and henceforth the MDC was a force to be reckoned with in the land.
Mugabe himself knows that he is at the helm of a seriously fractured party; he also knows – and it must provide precious little consolation – that he is in some ways the only glue that holds it together. Indeed he could well say with the famed Madame de Pompadour (favourite of Louis XV of France) “apres nous le deluge” (”after us the deluge”). From the country’s perspective, the aging dictator is at the centre of the ultimate Catch 22: He himself is the main obstacle in the way of resolving the severe economic crisis, but because of the lack of consensus on who will succeed him, he is still needed by his party.
The only thing left to happen that hasn't happened yet, is the melding of all the discontent into one insurmountable tidal wave. Bev Clark at Kubatana Blogs wonders,
We’ve had so many strikes recently, I’m left wondering why there hasn’t been a convergence of all this discontent? Something like the mother of all strikes – a National People’s Strike.
My answer? Maybe as more and more of ZANU-PF's rotteness is exposed for all to see, Zimbabweans will direct their mutual discontent at the true source. If this is a sign of things to come, we are not too far from the “mother of strikes.”