Fall of Mugabe fails to remedy Zimbabwe’s stubborn woes – SFGate

Source: Fall of Mugabe fails to remedy Zimbabwe’s stubborn woes – SFGate

HARARE, Zimbabwe — One year ago the unthinkable happened in Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe fell from power.

Tanks rolled in the streets of the capital, Harare, on Nov. 14, 2017, and the military put Mugabe under house arrest, in reaction to Mugabe’s firing of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans danced in the streets to celebrate the end of Mugabe’s repressive rule that had brought ruin to the once prosperous economy. Mugabe, then 93, soon resigned, ending his 37-year rule.

A year later, Zimbabwe’s economic problems have worsened and restrictions on basic freedoms remain, bringing some Zimbabweans to ask what, if anything, has changed.

The euphoria at Mugabe’s fall has evaporated. Mnangagwa promised Zimbabwe “a new dawn” but to many the country looks depressingly familiar with long lines at the banks to withdraw paltry amounts of cash and shortages of basic goods that have led to the rationing of cooking oil, bottled water and beer.

“They played us, we marched for nothing,” Adrea Magoronye, a Harare resident said as she stood in a line for cooking oil at a supermarket.

Mnangagwa started well, but his disputed election victory in July followed by soldiers killing six civilians, a cholera outbreak and an economic implosion have cast a pall over the 76-year-old’s first year in power.

Mnangagwa promised to turn the collapsed economy into a middle-class one by 2030, underpinned by democratic reform and re-engagement with the U.S. and other Western countries that imposed sanctions during Mugabe’s rule.

Those sanctions have not yet been lifted, and the signs are not reassuring. In September, inflation climbed to its highest since 2010, according to Zimstat, the national statistics agency.

Drugs are in short supply in a country where the health system has long been on the brink of collapse. Private pharmacies with drugs in stock are charging U.S. dollars that are scarce and out of the reach of many.

“Our patients are relapsing, deteriorating, operations being cancelled. We urge the government to increase the allocation of forex (foreign exchange) as the gap is currently huge as a matter of urgency,” said the Zimbabwe Medical Association in a statement last week.

Many fear the current crisis, induced by foreign currency shortages and a ballooning debt, could spiral into the kind of economic collapse seen a decade ago when Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation reached 500 billion percent, according to the International Monetary Fund, and cholera killed more than 4,000 people.

Critics say Mnangagwa’s government remains repressive, citing arrests of people accused of criticizing the president, a characteristic of Mugabe’s regime. They also point to the killing of six people when the military fired into protesters on Aug. 2 and the banning of antigovernment demonstrations.

“We are moving back to the pre-coup era,” said Lizwe Jamela, a human rights lawyer in Harare.

Farai Mutsaka is an Associated Press writer.