Chaos looms as Zim burns
HARARE – With Zimbabwe continuing on its precipitous decline that is widely blamed on President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF — and which is now manifested by a stone-broke State that can’t pay its workers, as well as rising poverty levels in the country — analysts warn of looming civil strife in 2016.
The analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday said Zimbabwe was by all indications teetering on the brink of total collapse, a situation that was spawning worsening citizen despondency which could lead to growing opposition to Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s 36 years in power.
Political scientist Ibbo Mandaza said with the country almost on its knees amid shocking unemployment levels, looming mass starvation, escalating company closures and job redundancies, as well as a sharp deterioration in social and health services, Zimbabwe had become a laughing stock in the Sadc region.
Against this dire background, he said, civil strife was likely to escalate from now onwards as desperate Zimbabweans looked to have the myriad problems that they faced eased.
“Opposition parties have largely become by-standers in the unfolding Zanu PF factional and succession drama that is negatively impacting on the country and its economy.
“The net result of all the intensifying succession battles is that it is the economy that continues to suffer, a situation which could galvanise mass opposition to Zanu PF and the State beyond political parties,” Mandaza warned.
He said it was also possible that opposition parties such as former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s yet-to-be launched People First would “take advantage” of the deteriorating environment, while many others would become “irrelevant” as the much-anticipated 2018 general elections approached.
Afghanistan-based analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said the country’s opposition forces had weakened to the extent that many people felt that their hope and destiny lay in their own hands.
“Sadly, the various opposition parties will not unite to create a united front due to the egos of their leaders.
“If anything, people are likely to be forced to revolt against Zanu PF as the economic problems continue to affect everyone, with no reprieve in sight,” Saungweme said.
Mandaza avered that Mugabe’s weakening hold on power would be compounded by the fact that the “centre of gravity” in the ruling party had been “shifted” by its mindless bloodletting which had seen many of its leading stalwarts chased away — with “no one knowing what they are doing and where they will re-emerge”.
“Owing to the seemingly unending purges, Zanu PF has made the so-called People First bigger by default and it will certainly be the biggest elephant in the room that they cannot afford to ignore,” he said.
Mandaza said the ugly ructions had created divisions not just in the party, but also within the State, adding that “those who purged others are now fighting among themselves and ‘I do not see either the G40, (Mugabe’s wife) Grace or (embattled Vice President Emmerson) Mnangagwa coming out as the winner’”.
However, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, believes that while the prospects of citizens rising up against Mugabe cannot not be discounted, it is “not inevitable because of the subservient political culture in the country”.
He said unless the country’s security services sector — that had been the fulcrum of Mugabe’s hold on power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980 — began to behave differently, ordinary citizens were likely to be too scared to openly oppose the increasingly frail nonagenarian.
“The prospects of a popular uprising are only likely if the frustration, the poverty and the cash crisis reach the security sector which presently wields coercive power, in which event they would not behave in their normal way of crushing protests as they may even join such mass action,” Masunungure said.
These sentiments by analysts come as poverty levels in Zimbabwe are said to have reached alarming proportions, with a recent authoritative survey revealing that in some areas of the country, as many as 96 percent of villagers live on less than a dollar a day.
According to the Zimbabwe Poverty Atlas for 2015 — a research carried out by ZimStat, the World Bank and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) — areas such as Nkayi in Matabeleland have a shocking poverty prevalence of 96 percent.
Most analysts are agreed that the main factors behind this dire state of affairs are the misrule of Mugabe’s Zanu PF administration and the recurrent drought which has left most parts of the country relying on humanitarian aid.
According to the survey, some of the other districts which were experiencing high levels of poverty were Lupane with 93 percent poverty prevalence, Gokwe South 91 percent, and Mudzi 90 percent.
In Nkayi, out of an estimated population of 107 613, with an average of five people making up a household, 21 112 households had no income sufficient to provide for their basic necessities, the study revealed.
“Poverty was found to be most prevalent in Matabeleland North, while it was least prevalent in Harare at 36,4 percent and Bulawayo at 37,2 percent,” the report said.
“The rest of the provinces had poverty prevalence rates ranging between 65 percent and 76 percent … districts with lower poverty prevalence rates were Marondera 43,4 percent and Gweru 45,5 percent,” it added.
Unicef Zimbabwe Country Representative Reza Hossaini said recently that it was high time the government and other stakeholders put their hands on deck to eradicate poverty, as children continued to be the hardest hit by the scourge.
“Seventy-eight percent of children in Zimbabwe live in monetary poverty. Progress towards reducing poverty has been uneven during the Millennium Development Goals and … we need to act on this,” he said.
Critics say instead of focusing on reviving the country’s comatose economy, the ruling post-congress Zanu PF has been consumed by its unending factional and succession wars, at the expense of bread and butter issues.
And the government’s much-hyped economic blueprint, ZimAsset, has so far proved to be a mirage, incapable of providing the stimulus needed to revive the country’s bleeding economy.
And as Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown accelerates, analysts also warn of a looming and catastrophic shutdown of important government functions, with insiders telling the Daily News on Sunday recently that the cash squeeze that has been crippling the fiscus over the past two years has now reached a “crisis” point.
“Listen, we are in s..t (swear word for big trouble),” a senior government official with intimate knowledge of the Treasury said resignedly, adding: “The economy is in free-fall and government coffers are running dry, and no one appears to have a clue of what to do. I fear for the worst”.
The despondent official spoke as government once again delayed payments to civil servants and pensioners this month — as the State battles to juggle its modest resources, amid the worsening economic crisis that has resulted in the closure of thousands of companies and the loss of hundreds of thousands of badly-needed jobs.
But the official who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday said the delayed payments to pensioners was “a picnic, as terrible as it is”, with his biggest fear being that the entire government machinery was perilously close to shutting down because of the debilitating cash squeeze.
“The big issue now, the way things are going, is when, not whether government will run out of cash to keep key services going and to pay civil servants.
“And here, I’m not talking of delayed payments, I’m talking of a complete inability to pay,” he said. – Daily News Zimbabwe