Since Zimbabwe’s land reform of 2000 – when around 8 million hectares of formerly large-scale commercial farmland was distributed to about 175,000 households – debates about the consequences for food security have raged.
A standard narrative has been that Zimbabwe has turned from “food basket” to “basket case”. This year, following the devastating El Niño drought combined with Cyclone Idai, some 5.5 million people are estimated to be at risk of hunger, with international agencies issuing crisis and emergency alerts.
It is unquestionable that this season was disastrous – only 776,635 tonnes of maize was produced, more than a third below the five-year average. Nevertheless, the story of food insecurity is more complex than the headline figures suggest.
But Zimbabwe suffered food shortages, often precipiated by El Niño events, before land reform. These too led to the need for more imports. And surpluses have also been produced since land reform. For example, in 2017, there was a bumper crop. Some of it was stored and has been used to keep people going.
Getting behind the headline figures and understanding an increasingly complex food economy is essential. Our on-going research shows just how complicated the picture is.
Farming and food
Since land reform, we have been tracking livelihood change in resettlement areas in a number of sites across the country. Our research is exploring how people have fared since getting land, asking who is doing well and not so well, and why. Some of our key findings include:
Crop production is higher in the land reform areas compared to the communal lands. Larger land areas allows new settlers to produce, invest and accumulate.
There are substantial hidden flows of food between land reform areas and poor rural and urban areas, as successful resettlement farmers provide food for relatives, or sell food informally.
There is a significant growth of small-scale, farmer-led irrigation in resettlement areas. This is often not recognised, as production occurs on disparate small plots, frequently farmed by younger people without independent homes.
Trade in food across regions and borders, facilitated by networks of traders, often women, is significant, but unrecorded.
Market networks following land reform are complex and informal, linking producers to traders and small urban centres in new ways. Outside formal channels, the volume and flows of food through the system is difficult to trace.
Simple aggregate analyses of food deficits, estimating the numbers of people at risk of food insecurity, do not capture these new dynamics. National surveys are important, but may be misleading, and local studies, such as ours, often do not match the national, aggregate picture.
So, what is going on?
Access to food: complex relationships
Food insecurity is not just about production, it is also about access. This is affected by the value of assets when sold, the ease with which things can be bought and sold in markets, the value of cash as influenced by currency fluctuations and inflation, local and cross-border trade opportunities, and all the social, institutional and cultural dimensions that go into exchange.
When these dimensions change, so does food security. And this is particularly true for certain groups.
Take the case of Zvishavane district, in Midlands province of Zimbabwe. In the communal area of Mazvihwa, there was effectively no production this season. Some got a little if they had access to wetlands, and a few had stores. But compared to 30 years ago, production is focused on maize, which stores poorly, rather than small grains that can be kept for years.
How are people surviving? Some seek piecework in the nearby resettlement areas; others have taken up seasonal gold panning; others migrate to town, or further afield; others get help from relatives through remittances; while others are in receipt of cash transfers or food hand-outs from NGOs.
With small amounts of cash, people must buy food. It’s available in shops, but expensive. So a vibrant trade has emerged, with exchanges of maize grain for sugar or other products. And it’s especially people from the land reform areas who are selling their surpluses. Many have relatives who got land, and some travel there to get food, but there is also a network of women traders who come and sell in the communal areas.
Aggregate surveys almost always miss this complexity. There are sampling biases, as the importance of the resettlements as sites of production and exchange are missed.
There are data problems too, as it is difficult to pick up informal exchanges, and income-earning activities on the margins. The result is that each year there are big food insecurity figures proclaimed, fund-raising campaigns launched, but meanwhile people get on with surviving.
This is not to say that there is not a problem this year. Far from it. But it may be a different one to that diagnosed.
Economic collapse is causing a humanitarian crisis
As the Zimbabwean economy continues to deteriorate, with rapidly-rising inflation, parallel currency rates, and declining service provision, whether electricity, fuel or water, the challenges of market exchange and trade become more acute. Barter trade is more common, as prices fluctuate wildly and the value of physical and electronic money diverge. With poor mobile phone networks due to electricity outages, electronic exchange becomes more difficult too.
Collapsing infrastructure has an effect on production also. Fuel price hikes make transport prohibitive and irrigation pumps expensive to run. Desperate measures by government often make matters worse. The now-rescinded edict that all grain must be supplied to the state grain marketing board undermined vital informal trade. Meanwhile, the notoriously corrupt “command agriculture” subsidy scheme directs support to some, while excluding others from the provision of favourable loans for government-supplied seed, fertiliser, fuel or equipment.
Economic and infrastructural collapse is threatening food security in Zimbabwe. Even if there is good rainfall this season, the crisis will persist. Farmers will plant, produce and market less this year. While food imports are needed for targeted areas and population groups for sure, this may not be the biggest challenge.
Stabilising Zimbabwe’s economy is the top priority, as economic chaos is causing a humanitarian crisis.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has said former President Robert Mugabe delayed embarking on the land reform programme to allow successful negotiations between the African National Congress (ANC) and the apartheid regime.
He said this at Durban City Hall on Tuesday during an ANC memorial service for Cde Mugabe in KwaZulu-Natal.
"As we began the process of negotiations here in South Africa in 1990, the 10-year period of the Constitution of Zimbabwe negotiated at the Lancaster House came to an end," said Cde Mbeki.
"Zimbabwe could now redo its Constitution, including addressing this matter of the land question, particularly as it related to the principle of willing buyer-willing seller.
"The then secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku from Nigeria, then approached President Mugabe to plead with him not to change the Lancaster House provisions related to the land question.
"His (Chief Anyaoku) argument was that if Zimbabwe did something like that to address the land issue, correctly as they needed to address it, it would frighten the white population in South Africa and make it difficult for ANC to negotiate with them."
Cde Mbeki said Cde Mugabe then acceded to Chief Anyaoku's plea.
"That is why the land reform process was delayed in Zimbabwe for at least a decade," he said.
"It was done in order to give us a space here in order to succeed in our negotiations with the apartheid regime."
Cde Mbeki said he went to the UK and spoke to Prime Minister Tony Blair and urged the British government to honour its Lancaster House agreement.
"As South African government we told Prime Minister Blair that we think you must honour your promise on the land question that particular year UK, Canada and Australia and New Zealand, the so called white Commonwealth, all of them for some reasons had budget surpluses and so we said to him (Prime Minister Blair) that if he committed himself to raising the money, we will talk to other Commonwealth countries to support him and he agreed," he said.
"A donor conference was held in Zimbabwe in 1998 to address this matter and it was agreed, but dishonoured in the first instance by the UK.
"The matter came up again a bit later when the war veterans started occupying some of the farms and at that particular time there were 115 farms that were available for sale and they would have cost 9 million.
"Zimbabwe sent a delegation to the UK to ask that they be given the money to buy those farms to take the war veterans onto these farms that would have owned away from these commercial ones and the British government said they had no money."
Credit: The Herald
The death of Robert Gabriel Mugabe (95) saw another of the first-generation leaders of newly independent southern African states leave the world stage.
Southern Africa was the last region on the continent to obtain majority rule. The independence of Zimbabwe (1980), Namibia (1990) and democracy in South Africa (1994) ended white settler minority regimes. They were replaced in power by liberation movements. The Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu, later Zanu-PF), the South West African People’s Organisation (Swapo) and the African National Congress (ANC) have been in government since then.
Mugabe’s death invites a look at the succession – or lack of – in these three countries.
Despite the cultivation of heroic narratives and patriotic history, the first-generation freedom fighters who took over the state offices are not immortal. Mugabe’s male-dominated leadership structures based on liberation struggle credentials remain entrenched.
In all three countries a second struggle generation is gradually entering the higher echelons of party and state. But the “born free” – people who were born after liberation – as well as women have hardly made significant inroads into the meritocratic, male-dominated core structures of power.
The question is how much longer the “old men syndrome” will remain alive and kicking in the three countries, despite growing frustration among the politically powerless.
Celebrated by many as an icon of the anti-colonial struggle, Mugabe was nevertheless an autocratic ruler who overstayed his time in office. The military finally replaced him with his longtime confidante Emmerson Mnangagwa in a soft coup in November 2017.
Mnangagwa’s sidelining was initiated by Mugabe’s younger wife Grace (born in 1965, she was 40 years his junior) to hijack the succession of her husband. She led a group of Zanu-PF members, dubbed the G40 (for Generation 40). The name referred to a constitutional clause that everyone above the age of 40 qualified as a presidential candidate. But, the military and security apparatus and its leadership was still firmly rooted in the struggle generation and opted for “Team Lacoste” named after “the Crocodile”, which is Mnangagwa’s nickname.
This ended the political careers of the G40. So far, the “elders” remain in charge and in firm control.
After Tsvangirai’s death earlier this year the much younger Nelson Chamisa (born in 1978) won the internal party power struggle. He challenged Mnangagwa in the elections in July last year.
Thanks mainly to rural area results, Zanu-PF recorded a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections. Mnangagwa also secured a (disputed) and much more narrow first term in office as elected head of state.
This is partly due to a continued stricter social control in rural areas. Political interaction and activities in villages can be much more easily monitored than in urban areas. But it also suggests that traditional values – such as respect for elders – remain alive. This gives the generation in power a comparative advantage over younger competitors.
Similar generational constellations also benefited the governing parties in Namibia and South Africa.
Namibia has had three state presidents since independence in 1990. Sam Nujoma, co-founder of Swapo in 1960, was its president until 2007 and the country’s first head of state for three terms until 2005. In May he celebrated his 90th birthday in seemingly good health. Though he remains influential, he has been less visible lately.
In a heavy-handed inner-party battle he ensured that his crown prince Hifikepunye Pohamba (born 1936) followed for two terms. Pohamba was succeeded by Namibia’s first Prime Minister Hage Geingob (born 1941).
After a clash with Nujoma, Geingob left Namibia to head the Global Coalition for Africa in Washington. Returning to Namibia’s parliament, he made a comeback under Pohamba. Reappointed as Prime Minister in 2012, he became state president in 2015 and party leader in 2017.
Geingob is tipped to be reelected as head of state for another five-year term in the next presidential and parliamentary elections in November. His current Vice President Nangolo Mbumba is the same age. In the Swapo electoral college on 7 September he secured another top ranking on the party’s candidate list for the National Assembly and will remain in the inner circle of “Team Hage”.
Party president Geingob could also fill ten secure seats on the electoral list and brought some of those seniors back, who did not make the cut. As the head of state he can appoint another eight non-voting members to parliament. This will allow him to retain several more of the trusted old cadres.
Despite this, Namibia’s second struggle generation (those who went into exile in the mid-1970s) is gradually taking over.
Nelson Mandela,(1918-2013) served only one term as state president. His successors Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma (both born 1942) were recalled by the ANC and did not survive the full two terms in office.
Zuma was succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa. Born in 1952, he is ten years younger than his predecessor.
Inter-generational tensions have begun to show in South Africa. In the latest national elections young South Africans, or “born frees”, showed their disdain for the ANC’s old guard and agenda by staying away from the polls as a form of protest.
This younger generation has shown its frustration with the limits to liberation. Many dismiss formal politics. Their preference is to engage in social movements or other parties.
One such choice is to support Julius Malema (born 1981) and his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) which was founded in 2013 and appeals to a smaller pan-African segment of the younger generation. But the party’s election results remained behind its expectations and kept it in a distant third place, garnering only 10,80% in the latest polls.
For obvious reasons, the first-generation freedom fighters, who took over the state offices after liberation, continue to place a high value on seniority in age.
Younger generations of leaders and women make only limited inroads into the structures of power, and the “born free” are not represented.
Rather, the second struggle generation is moving upward to take over, maintaining a system which leaves little room for renewal beyond the confines of individual credentials within the ranks of the former liberation movements.
The continued cultivation of a heroic narrative and patriotic history includes the internalised conception that freedom fighters never retire. Theirs is a lifelong struggle. “A luta continua” remains alive as long as they are.
But this is a backward looking perspective, nurtured by a romanticised past. It blocks new ideas and visions by younger generations contributing to governance, which would create ownership and make them feel represented. It prevents rather than creating a common future.
Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile operate, Econet Wireless is having Tesla batteries installed at its base stations around the country as a backup to electricity shortages currently hitting the country.
The power utility company, Zesa (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority), early this year, introduced 18-hour long load shedding schedules to contain the situation as it is producing less electricity due to low water levels in Lake Kariba, the country’s largest source of power, exacerbated by drought.
Zesa, which also relies on importing power from neighboring countries, owes South Africa’s Eskom around $23 million in unpaid bills. At present Eskom supplies 400 megawatts to Zimbabwe which is not enough to restore the situation to normalcy.
Zimbabwe has had cash shortages as its economy continues to fall and mobile money is essential for most daily transactions by Zimbabweans. Large chunks of the country’s economy runs through electronic systems and mobile money, which is dominated by Econet’s Ecocash with 95% market share. It’s estimated around 5 million transactions a day moving more than $200 million.
All this means local mobile network base stations need to always be on regardless of electricity shortages. In July, Econet generators failed to kick in after a power outage forcing a mobile money blackout for a day. Most citizens were stranded and economists estimated the country lost millions of dollars.
With fuel shortages and unstable prices, mobile operators are finding it hard to use diesel-powered generators to back up their stations and have turned to the Palo Alto, California-based automaker and storable-energy company Tesla to provide them with batteries to keep providing services to their subscribers.
Tesla’s larger-than-life founder Elon Musk, who was born in neighboring South Africa, launch the Powerwall in 2015. The residential version is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to be mounted in a garage or on the side of a house. The device, the size of a small refrigerator can store power from a home’s solar panels, or connect to the electrical grid, storing up electricity when rates are low and providing backup electricity supply in case of a blackout.
The lithium-ion batteries stores energy and can stand up to 10 hours, enough time to power up a station until electricity supplies are restored in some parts of the country and Econet-owned solar specialist Distribution Power Africa (DPA) is currently doing the installations.
The commercial Powerwalls which costs $6,500 each will be used when solar panels cannot generate enough electricity during the night or when there is bad weather.
DPA chief executive officer Norman Moyo recently told Bloomberg his company is installing 520 Powerwall batteries, with two going into each base station of the 1,300 base stations in the country. He said base stations power supplies were critical considering that for transactions to run in Zimbabwe telecom network should be up adding that “Telcoms have become the lifeblood of the economy.”
Read More: Quartz Africa
Robert Mugabe, the former president of Zimbabwe, has died. Mugabe was 95, and had been struggling with ill health for some time. The country’s current President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced Mugabe’s death on Twitter on September 6:
The responses to Mnangagwa’s announcement were immediate and widely varied. Some hailed Mugabe as a liberation hero. Others dismissed him as a “monster”. This suggests that Mugabe will be as divisive a figure in death as he was in life.
The official mantra of the Zimbabwe government and its Zimbabwe African National Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) will emphasise his leadership of the struggle to overthrow Ian Smith’s racist settler regime in what was then Rhodesia. It will also extol his subsequent championing of the seizure of white-owned farms and the return of land into African hands.
In contrast, critics will highlight how – after initially preaching racial reconciliation after the liberation war in December 1979 – Mugabe threw away the promise of the early independence years. He did this in several ways, among them a brutal clampdown on political opposition in Matabeleland in the 1980s, and Zanu-PF’s systematic rigging of elections to keep he and his cronies in power.
Inevitably, the focus will primarily be on his domestic record. Yet many of those who will sing his praises as a hero of African nationalism will be from elsewhere on the continent. So where should we place Mugabe among the pantheon of African nationalists who led their countries to independence?
Slide into despotism
Most African countries have been independent of colonial rule for half a century or more.
The early African nationalist leaders were often regarded as gods at independence. Yet they very quickly came to be perceived as having feet of very heavy clay.
Nationalist leaders symbolised African freedom and liberation. But few were to prove genuinely tolerant of democracy and diversity. One party rule, nominally in the name of “the people”, became widespread. In some cases, it was linked to interesting experiments in one-party democracy, as seen in Tanzania under Julius Nyerere and Zambia under Kenneth Kaunda.
In Zimbabwe’s case, Mugabe proved unable to shift the country, as he had wished, to one-partyism. However, this did not prevent Zanu-PF becoming increasingly intolerant over the years in response to both economic crisis and rising opposition. Successive elections were shamelessly perverted.
When, despite this, Zanu-PF lost control of parliament in 2008, it responded by rigging the presidential election in a campaign of unforgivable brutality. Under Mugabe, the potential for democracy was snuffed out by a brutal despotism.
A wasted inheritance
Whether the economic policies they pursued were ostensibly capitalist or socialist, the early African nationalist leaders presided over rapid economic decline, following an initial period of relative prosperity after independence.
In retrospect, it’s widely recognised that the challenges they faced were immense. Most post-colonial economies were underdeveloped and depended upon the export of a small number of agricultural or mineral commodities. From the 1970s, growth was crowded out by the International Monetary Fund demanding that mounting debts be surmounted through the pursuit of structural adjustment programmes. This hindered spending on infrastructure as well as social services and education and swelled political discontent.
In contrast, Mugabe inherited a viable, relatively broad-based economy that included substantial industrial and prosperous commercial agricultural sectors. Even though these were largely white controlled, there was far greater potential for development than in most other post-colonial African countries.
But, through massive corruption and mismanagement, his government threw that potential away. He also presided over a disastrous downward spiral of the economy, which saw both industry and commercial agriculture collapse. The economy has never recovered and remains in a state of acute and persistent crisis today.
On the political front, the rule of some leaders – like Milton Obote in Uganda and Siad Barre in Somalia – created so much conflict that coups and crises drove their countries into civil war. Zimbabwe under Mugabe was spared this fate – but perhaps only because the political opposition in Matabeleland in the 1980s was so brutalised after up to 30 000 people were killed, that they shrank from more conflict. Peace, then, was merely the absence of outright war.
Some leaders, notably Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere in Tanzania, are still revered for their commitments to national independence and African unity. This is despite the fact that, domestically, their records were marked by failure. By 1966, when Nkrumah was displaced by a military coup, his one-party rule had become politically corrupt and repressive.
Despite this, Nyerere always retained his reputation for personal integrity and commitment to African development. Both Nkrumah’s and Nyerere’s ideas continue to inspire younger generations of political activists, while other post-independence leaders’ names are largely forgotten.
Will Mugabe be similarly feted by later generations? Will the enormous flaws of his rule be forgotten amid celebrations of his unique role in the liberation of southern Africa as a whole?
A Greek tragedy
The problem for pan-Africanist historians who rush to praise Mugabe is that they will need to repudiate the contrary view of the millions of Zimbabweans who have suffered under his rule or have fled the country to escape it. He contributed no political ideas that have lasted. He inherited the benefits as well as the costs of settler rule but reduced his country to penury. He destroyed the best of its institutional inheritance, notably an efficient civil service, which could have been put to good use for all.
The cynics would say that the reputation of Patrice Lumumba, as an African revolutionary and fighter for Congolese unity has lasted because he was assassinated in 1961. In other words, he had the historical good fortune to die young, without the burden of having made major and grievous mistakes.
In contrast, there are many who would say that Mugabe simply lived too long, and his life was one of Greek tragedy: his early promise and virtue marked him out as popular hero, but he died a monster whom history will condemn.
Robert Mugabe, the African revolutionary hero who liberated his country from white rule but then turned the new, independent nation of Zimbabwe into his personal fiefdom and a virtual one-party state during his 37-year reign, has died, the country's current president said on Friday. Mugabe was 95.
"It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe's founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe," Mugabe's successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, posted on his official Twitter account.
Mugabe was forced out of power by a military coup in 2017. The cause of death was not immediately confirmed, but Mugabe had long battled health issues.
Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born into poverty in 1924 in what was then Southern Rhodesia, a British colony named after the notorious colonialist Cecil John Rhodes. Like neighboring South Africa, Rhodesia was allowed self-rule, but under a brutal system run by the white minority.
Mugabe was educated in Catholic missionary schools and became a teacher in what was then known as Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. He later lived in Ghana when that country became the first African nation granted independence from Britain in 1957. He returned to Southern Rhodesia in 1960. Five years later the country's white rulers broke away from their British overlords in order to keep power and renamed the country Rhodesia.
Mugabe was one of the founders of a revolutionary political party in Rhodesia called the Zimbabwe African National Union, or ZANU-PF. His actions led to him being imprisoned in 1964 without trial. He served 11 years behind bars, but while in prison, he was chosen as president of ZANU-PF.
After his release, he directed guerrilla warfare efforts against Rhodesia's white government from exile in Mozambique.
Mugabe became known as a skilled negotiator during his time in exile, according to BBC News.
He made a name for himself during the independence movement, and Mugabe's ZANU-PF won an overwhelming majority in the first free elections in what had been officially renamed Zimbabwe in 1980. Mugabe then became the country's first post-independence prime minister.
"The phase we are entering, the phase of independence should be regarded as a phase conferring upon all of us — the people of Zimbabwe — whether we are black or white — full sovereignty, full democratic rights," Mugabe said in 1980.
Zimbabwe seemed to have a promising future, but bitter divisions remained. Mugabe soon moved to consolidate his ZANU-PF party's hold on the country, crushing his opponents in a brutal crackdown in which thousands of people were killed. He altered the constitution in 1987 to make himself president.
Although Mugabe initially invested heavily in social programs, including education and health, Zimbabwe's fortunes turned dramatically over the next decade. Mugabe blamed the white farmers, who remained in the country after the civil war, for economic malaise, and a vote was ordered to alter the constitution so the government could confiscate white-owned farms. The referendum was defeated, but Mugabe ordered his followers to carry out the farm seizures anyway.
Between 2000 and 2001, more than 1,000 farms were seized, Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" reported at the time. A group of Mugabe's followers called the "war veterans" drove the white farm owners off their land, wrecked homes and barns, killed livestock and then left the land fallow.
"The white farmer is the crudest of the whites in this country," Mugabe told Kroft, "the most backwater in terms of enlightenment and education."
The wife of one white farmer who was forced to drink diesel fuel before being shot blamed Mugabe for her husband's murder.
"Why?" Mugabe asked Kroft during the interview. "I wasn't there, I didn't give instructions to anyone."
The farm seizures led to condemnation by the international community, and loans to Zimbabwe were banned. Once known as the bread basket of Africa, Zimbabwe's farming industry collapsed and the country descended into desperate poverty.
A rival group, the Movement for Democratic Change, grew in power and won a majority in the first round of elections in 2008. But its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out of the runoff after violence that left an estimated 200 people dead, according to NPR.
But through the chaos Mugabe lost some of his grip on power. The U.S., EU and many of his fellow African leaders tried to pressure him into leaving. In a defiant speech before Parliament in 2008, Mugabe claimed the international criticism, which extended to his handling of a vicious cholera epidemic, was a "pack of lies," and vowed he would not be intimidated into leaving.
"I will never, never, never surrender," he said. "Zimbabwe is mine, I am a Zimbabwean. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans."
In 2009 he was forced to agree to a power-sharing agreement with Tsvangirai, but he managed to keep most of the power for himself. The economy went into free-fall. Unemployment soared and diseases were rampant. The Zimbabwe dollar was being printed in denominations of billions amid astronomical inflation.
Mugabe insisted he had won a clear victory in a contested 2013 election, and ended the power-sharing agreement. But his grip on power only lasted a few more years. He was finally ousted when his longtime allies, the country's military commanders, turned against him amid concerns he was setting up his wife, Grace, as his successor.
Mugabe had battled a number of health problems in recent years, and was receiving medical treatment in Singapore when he died. He had been there since April.
Mugabe once insisted he would never retire or go into exile. "I fought for Zimbabwe, and when I die I will be buried in Zimbabwe, nowhere else," he said in 2003.
Credit: CBS News
Zimbabwean public sector doctors went on strike on Tuesday for the second time in less than a year to demand a further salary increase amid soaring living costs, as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government struggles with a deteriorating economy.
Zimbabwe is mired in its worst economic crisis in a decade, with triple-digit inflation, rolling power cuts and shortages of U.S. dollars, basic goods, medicines and fuel that have revived memories of the hyperinflation that forced it to ditch its currency in 2009.
Mnangagwa’s government has proposed big pay rises for doctors and other public sector workers in an attempt to avert crippling strikes. Police have banned a series of protests called by the opposition in major cities and have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.
The main unions representing doctors and teachers, who make up the bulk of public service workers, said they had rejected the government’s salary offers, which would see the lowest paid worker earning 1,023 Zimbabwe dollars ($90.45) a month.
The doctors accepted their 60% pay increase but said it was not sufficient to avert the strike action. The teachers are not currently on strike.
The doctors are looking for another 401% pay hike that they want indexed to the U.S. dollar.
“We met with the government representatives yesterday and they promised to expedite other allowances for health personnel but so far it has just been empty promises,” the head of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), Peter Magombeyi, told Reuters.
“They have taken us for granted for too long, but we are ready to go back to work as soon as they offer us something tangible, which has not been forthcoming so far.”
“ASSESSING THE SITUATION”
At the turn of the year, junior doctors held a 40-day strike for better pay and conditions that crippled public hospitals. It ended without a deal being reached and with doctors threatening further stoppages.
Most junior doctors stayed away on Tuesday at the largest two public hospitals, Parirenyatwa and Harare Central, a Reuters witness said.
A few junior doctors turned up to work, but said they would not report for work on Wednesday. Some senior doctors also said they would join the strike.
“Today we were assessing the situation but we are not coming in tomorrow(Today). The strike will be in full swing,” a junior doctor at Harare Central Hospital told Reuters.
The Health Services Board (HSB), which represents the government, said in a statement late on Monday that it was surprised the doctors were taking strike action despite accepting the earlier pay offer.
ZHDA wants wages, which were previously pegged to the U.S. dollar, to be paid at the prevailing inter-bank market rate and says its members can no longer afford to report for duty due to surging inflation and the deterioration in the economy.
Their current salaries are worth less than 10% of what they were before the peg was scrapped due to high inflation.
Zimbabwe dollar is trading at 11.31 against the U.S. dollar in the interbank market and 13.10 in the black market. Both rates are used to buy goods.
Zimbabwe’s first Billionaire Strive Masiyiwa has come out to say he doesn’t own Econet. Strive explained Econet is a public trading company with tens of thousands of shareholders.
Strive explained he is just the largest single shareholder. Strive also said many people struggled to separate institutions and corporate structures and only saw a person and he called that a “BigMan” idea.
Writing on his Facebook Strive said:
I have never personally held more than 50%, since (Econet) was listed. So I actually don’t own the company. I’m simply the largest single shareholder But) you will still find even media people saying of a public listed entity ‘the Strive Masiyiwa-owned business’.
And some will even ask me to intervene on things I have no idea about, and should not be expected to know. They never shook away the BigMan idea developed when they were young. Many of us simply struggle to see institutions and corporate structures, and only see a person.
Since the November 2017 coup that toppled Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and the elections in 2018, the regime of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has forged two forms of rule. These have been based on coercion on the one hand, and on the other dialogue.
Following the 2018 general elections and the violence that marked its aftermath, the Mnangagwa regime once again resorted to coercion in the face of the protests in January 2019. The protests were in response to the deepening economic crisis in the country, and part of the opposition strategy to contest the legitimacy of the government.
The response of the state to the protests was swift and brutal. Seventeen people were killed and 954 jailed nationwide. In May the state turned its attention to civic leaders, arresting seven for “subverting” a constitutional government. The repressive state response was felt once again on 16 and 19 August, when the main opposition Movement for Democratic Chance (MDC) and civic activists were once again prevented from marching against the rapid deterioration of Zimbabwe’s economy.
These coercive acts represent a continuation of the violence and brutality of the Mugabe era.
At the same time Mnangagwa has pursued his objective of global re-engagement and selective national dialogue. This is in line with the narrative that has characterised the post-coup regime.
In tracking the dialogue strategy of the Mnangagwa government, it is apparent that it was no accident that key elements of it were set in motion in the same period as the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a new staff monitored programme.
The purported objective is to move the Zimbabwe Government towards an economic stabilisation programme. This would result in a more balanced budget, in a context in which excessive printing of money, rampant issuing of treasury bills and high inflation, were the hallmarks of Mugabe’s economic policies.
The dialogue initiatives also took place in the context of renewed discussions on re-engagement with the European Union (EU) in June this year.
But, Mnangagwa’s strategy of coercion and dialogue has hit a series of hurdles. These include the continued opposition by the MDC. Another is the on-going scepticism of the international players about the regime’s so-called reformist narrative.
Mnangagwa has launched four dialogue initiatives.
Political Actors: This involves about 17 political parties that participated in the 2018 elections. They all have negligible electoral support and are not represented in parliament. The purported intent is to build a national political consensus. The main opposition party, the MDC, boycotted the dialogue, dismissing it as a public relations exercise controlled by the ruling Zanu-PF.
The Presidential Advisory Council: This was established in January to provide ideas and suggestions on key reforms and measures needed to improve the investment and business climate for economic recovery. This body is largely composed of Mnangagwa allies.
The Matabeleland collective: This is aimed at building consensus and an effective social movement in Matabeleland to influence national and regional policy in support of healing, peace and reconciliation in this region. But it has come in for some criticisms. One is that it has been drawn into Mnangagwa’s attempt to control the narrative around the Gukurahundi massacres. These claimed an estimated 20 000 victims in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions in the early 1980’s. Another criticism is that it has exacerbated the divisions within an already weakened civic movement by regionalising what should be viewed as the national issue of the Gukurahundi state violence.
The Tripartite National Forum. This was launched in June, 20 years after it was first suggested by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. The functions of this body set out in an Act of Parliament, include the requirement to consult and negotiate over social and economic issues and submit recommendations to Cabinet; negotiate a social contract; and generate and promote a shared national socio-economic vision.
The establishment of the forum could provide a good platform for debate and consensus. But there are dangers. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions warned of the long history of the lack of “broad based consultation on past development programmes”. It insists that
reforms must never be deemed as tantamount to erosion of workers’ rights.
In assessing the central objectives of the various strands of Mnangagwa’s dialogue strategy, three factors stand out.
The first is that the Political Actors Dialogue, the Presidential Advisory Council and the Matabeleland Collective were developed to control the pace and narrative around the process of partnership with those players considered “reliable”. Major opposition and civic forces that continued to question the legitimacy of the Mnangagwa boycotted these processes.
Secondly, the formal establishment of the long awaited Tripartite National Forum may serve the purpose of locking the MDC’s major political ally, the Zimbabwe Council of Trade Unions, into a legally constructed economic consensus. The major parameters of this will likely be determined by the macro-economic stabalisation framework of the IMF programme.
When brought together, all these processes place increased pressure on the political opposition to move towards an acceptance of the legitimacy of the Mnangagwa regime, and into a new political consensus dominated by the ruling Zanu-PF’s political and military forces, thus earning them the seal of approval by major international forces.
The MDC has responded with a combined strategy of denying Mnangagwa legitimacy, protests as well as calls for continued global and regional pressure. The MDC believes that the continued decline of the economy will eventually end the dominance of the Mnangagwa regime.
As part of its 2018 election campaign, the MDC made it clear it would accept no other result than a victory for itself and Chamisa. That message has persisted and is a central part of the de-legitimation discourse of the opposition and many civic organisations. The MDC has regularly threatened protests since 2018.
The MDCs strategies have not resulted in any significant progress. The hope that the economic crisis and attempts at mass protests to force Zanu-PF into a dialogue are, for the moment, likely to be met with growing repression. Moreover, the deepening economic crisis is likely to further thwart attempts to mobilise on a mass basis.
The EU, for its part, is still keen on finding a more substantive basis for increased re-engagement with Mnangagwa and will keep the door open. Regarding the US, given the toxic politics of the Trump administration at a global level, and the ongoing strictures of the US on the Zimbabwe government, there has been a closing of ranks around a fellow liberation movement in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Mnangagwa’s recent appointment as Chair of the SADC Troika on Politics, Peace and Security in Tanzania will only further cement this solidarity.
There is clearly a strong need for a national dialogue between the major political players in Zimbabwean politics. But there is little sign that this will proceed. Moreover, the current position of regional players means that there is unlikely to be any sustained regional pressure for such talks in the near future.
Zimbabwe’s government said it is ready to settle with global lenders, sell assets and make the difficult spending decisions needed for financial recovery. But with opposition protests against plunging living standards scheduled in cities nationwide, it is in a race against time.
In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg News, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube dismissed rapidly accelerating inflation as “wage compression” and warned the country it will have to endure four more months of economic pain. for over a weeks, police in the capital has violently dispersed demonstrators protesting over the hardship his austerity measures have spawned.
“The big macro-economic decisions should be complete by year-end,” Ncube, 55, said in Harare. “In December, everything stops in terms of the big decisions. Beyond that, we focus more on jobs, growth, productivity and development.”
Almost a year into the job, Ncube, a Cambridge-university trained economics professor, has reined-in state spending and boosted tax revenue. But his introduction of a new currency in June, accompanied by a ban on the use of the US dollar, has seen the rapid erosion of spending power with the Zimbabwe dollar trading at almost 10 to the greenback. Its predecessor, a quasi-currency known as bond notes, was officially said to be at parity as recently as February.
Now many of the country’s 400 000 civil servants, who form the bulk of the middle class, are earning less than the $1.90 (R29) a day defined by the World Bank as the line below which people are living in extreme poverty.
Zimbabwe's annual inflation, the release of which has been suspended for six months, is officially 176 percent, the highest globally after Venezuela, and shortages of fuel and bread are widespread.
The government's inability to pay for adequate electricity imports has crippled the economy with power outages of as long as 18 hours a day. The measures, which Ncube conceded were painful for citizens, are necessary if the country is to regain a sound economic footing, he said.
There’s a growing risk that the economic hardship may trigger unrest similar to violence that took place two decades ago, said Japhet Moyo, the head of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the biggest labour federation.