Zimbabwe in southern Africa slides deeper into crisis every day – but there are also signs of renewed resistance.
Around 180,000 civil servants look set to strike after they were offered a 250 percent pay rise at a time when inflation is running at 1,600 percent.
Doctors and nurses at four major hospitals and teachers and lecturers have gone on strike this year.
The strikes inevitably have a political aspect as they challenge the regime of President Robert Mugabe, whose 83rd birthday took place this week.
At a time of great shortages, Mugabe’s supporters were trying to raise 300 million Zimbabwe dollars to fund a birthday party for him.
Zimbabwean riot police poured into the Highfield township in the capital of Harare on Monday.
The previous day, heavily armed squads prevented the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) from holding a court-approved rally. Police used teargas and water cannon to drive away protesters and arrested 122 people.
On 13 February 2,000 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise and Men of Zimbabwe Arise took to the streets of Harare and Bulawayo to publicise their People’s Charter – a distillation of the demands of rank and file Zimbabweans, which was launched last November. Police arrested over 270 people.
The economic crisis in Zimbabwe has reached such acute levels that the poor have to fight for basic survival.
Workers now resort to walking long distances as the cost of transport is well out of their reach. In schools and colleges costs continue to climb.
When people rose against Mugabe in the late 1990s, he cynically used leftist rhetoric and was forced to implement some welfare policies such as price controls and land reform.
This only bought him time – which has now run out.
Recently the Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono suggested that the only way the government could avert a total economic collapse was to make a peace deal with the opposition that allows the MDC in as a junior partner.
There is a real chance now for opposition forces to use the splits in the ruling party and the broadening resistance to fight for a real alternative to Mugabe and the neoliberal elements of the MDC.
Even the state apparatus is at this juncture relatively weak – there is no longer that hostility from some police to protests as in the past.
The police themselves are now among the least paid in the country and large scale desertions from the army and police are reported.
Shinga Mushandi Shinga! (Stand firm workers!)
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