HARARE – As food prices rise further beyond reach amid cash shortages, struggling Zimbabweans are losing belief in their president and his promise of a brighter future.
The country has been hit by persistent cash shortages — but its leaders tell the people that adversity will make them stronger.
This offers scant comfort to many ordinary Zimbabweans struggling to support their families as high unemployment and low wages take their toll.
They had pinned their hopes on President Robert Mugabe, who won power in 2013 with pledges to improve the economy — but the promises have remained pie in the sky.
“All these promises of improving the economy are just nice words,” said Moses Moyo, a father-of-five who owns a small grocery shop in Mbare.
“I can’t feed my children with empty promises.”
Mid-way through Mugabe’s seventh term, he has not only angered political opposition who oppose his policies, but is losing the belief of many of the middle and lower-income Zimbabweans who are now shouldering much of the burden of the economic woes.
Amid this growing disgruntlement, is also a culture of resistance that is slowly building up in people’s minds, which analysts say has left Zimbabwe on a cliff edge as they believe more and more that Mugabe is at his weakest.
CASH SHORTAGES: Long queues jam Harare banks in scenes reminiscent of the 2008 economic crisis. Pic: Freedom Mashava.
And with the MDC regaining its mojo and beginning to be more visible through anti-Mugabe demonstrations that have attracted tens of thousands of participants, Zanu PF is at war with itself, owing to factional and succession wars.
“The regime is at its weakest currently with frustration evident within the regime… They don’t know how to take the country forward and there is little hope among citizens on how this regime can redeem us from the current economic abyss,” University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure told the Daily News on Sunday.
He, however, said opposition parties cannot afford to relax, saying Zanu PF had the “baboon tendency because they can afford to quarrel now but come election time, they will close ranks and fight a common enemy”.
This tendency can be seen through the behaviour of the police — often used by Mugabe to restrict political space for his opponents by blocking them from demonstrating — leaving them to seek reprieve from the courts.
But Masunungure said while he did not expect a change in attitude towards Mugabe’s opponents, law enforcement agents were finding the country’s Constitution an obstacle in their efforts to thwart the growing anger against the 92-year-old’s 36-year rule.
Recently, the African Economics (NKC) in one of its research instalments on Zimbabwe, predicted an escalating crisis ahead of the next polls.
The think tank also pointed out that, currently, Zanu PF is at its weakest due to factional fights, adding that the economic woes will be a final blow to its existence.
“The decision by central bank chief John Mangudya to introduce what amounts to a ‘play money’ version of the US dollar, as well as new measures to severely curtail withdrawals, suggest Zimbabwe is edging closer to the brink of a new currency crisis,” NKC said.
The think tank added that the situation could “herald significant instability in the country”.
“As the cash shortages spark panic, there are new signs that the ailing Mugabe may not see out his current term, let alone be prepared to start a new one in 2018.
“What makes this different is the increasing pace of the disintegration of Zanu PF and the rivalries and competition for power that it will inevitably spark, specifically in the security establishment and the formal military.
“Zimbabwe has faced serious crises before, but not with such a divided party and so few ideas on how to proceed. The country is going to need clear heads if sanity is to prevail… but clear heads may be in short supply.”
Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development said the efforts made by the monetary authorities as a response to the current cash crisis and “simultaneously stabilisation and stimulation of the economy”, was addressing symptoms while the fundamental causes are left out.
“The ordinary Zimbabweans have been disturbed particularly by the proposals to bring the bond notes as a solution to the economy.
“It is clear that the citizens are no longer confident in the country’s financial sector in particular and the government’s economic measures in general.
“It is significant that the government undertakes a trust and confidence-building exercise for the people to be able to support any policy measures taken by the monetary authorities.
“Wide consultation of the public before any policy intervention is announced is key for a buy in of the stakeholders,” Zincodd said in a critique of the imminent bond notes.
Another analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa said the idea of disrupting demonstrations was a clear sign that Mugabe was gradually losing his grip on power.
However, it being a democratic right for people to demonstrate as provided for in the country’s new governing charter, the judiciary system has in recent times been coming to the rescue of the citizens by sanctioning the street marches.
“They (courts) probably wanted to show the world that they have reformed and that in Zimbabwe people are free to demonstrate,” Hamauswa said.
Hamauswa was, however, quick to point out that the institutions that have been making Zanu PF strong are still intact, although because of the infighting in the party, it is difficult to say how the party reacts when cornered.
“What we can suggest are just descriptions reminiscent to the blind man who describes the parts of the elephant his hands can feel.
“This means that we are living in a complex situation overshadowed by factional fights such that the real drivers of critical decisions are unknown,” he said.
For several years, Zimbabweans have been docile, as their right to demonstrate was denied in a move that flew in the face of perceived democracy attained at independence in 1980.
If there is anything that the governing party Zanu PF managed to achieve since it took over power was to instil fear in citizens, analysts said, and the use of violence to cow and crush every pocket of resistance.
This has grown in people’s minds to an extent that they have failed to assert their rights, but as the growing injustices continue to take toll on the hapless citizens, they are now taking to the streets to register their disgruntlement.