Military panicks over economic implosion

via Military panicks over economic implosion – The Zimbabwe Independent October 30, 2015

THE military — the pillar of President Robert Mugabe’s rule — is reportedly panicking over the country’s dipping economy, which it fears is now the biggest threat to the ruling party’s continued grip on power as Zimbabwe sinks deeper into recession amid company closures and retrenchments.

Faith Zaba

In separate private briefings this week, army chiefs told Zimbabwe Independent that the power cuts, which have seen most suburbs in Zimbabwe going for more than 18 hours without electricity, have exacerbated an already dire situation.

Contrary to President Robert Mugabe’s assertion that the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC-T is the greatest threat to the country’s stability, accusing it of being a Western-sponsored front bent on effecting illegal regime change or worries about former vice-president Mujuru’s mobilisation against government, security chiefs say it is the economy which is Zanu PF’s main threat.

This comes as MDC-T warned this week of more mass demonstrations until the government restores democracy and respects human rights in the country after last week’s protests in Manicaland during which the police brutally beat up its party supporters.

Over the past few months, Zimbabwe has been rocked by series of disturbances precipitated by the country’s worsening economic crisis, starting with a prison riot at Chikurubi Maximum Prison where inmates violently protested against inhuman prison conditions including poor diet and overcrowding.

University of Zimbabwe lecturers, students and general staff went on strike resulting in a temporary closure of the institution in March.

Harare was this week hit by demonstrations as the opposition and civil society demanded the immediate release of abducted journalist-cum politician Itai Dzamara who was taken near his home seven months ago by five unidentified men suspected to be state security agents.

Vendors have had running battles with the police in the past few months since June, protesting their removal from city centres, while residents in Bulawayo have demonstrated against pre-paid water meters.

The army chiefs scoffed at media reports that they were panicking over Zanu PF vicious succession battles, saying their worry instead was the economy, rising unemployment and worsening power shortages, which they view as a threat to the country’s national security.

With chaotic scenes of the Arab Spring that led to the fall of dictators in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt in 2011 still engraved deeply into their minds, military boses fear having a Tunisia—style uprising in Zimbabwe triggered by the self-immolation of 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi — a degreed in computer science. Faced with a daunting combination of poor employment prospects and food inflation in a country whose government was authoritarian, inept and corrupt, Bouazizi’s act of self-immolation sparked a wave of uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.

A top army commander said this week Zimbabwe is facing the same problems as did Tunisia at that time — high unemployment estimated at about 90%, corruption and rising poverty.

In December 2010, Bouazizi, who used to sell fruits and vegetables from a cart in his rural town of Sidi Bouzid, stood in front of municipal offices drenched in gasoline and set himself on fire.

His symbolic act of desperation — self-immolation — resonated immediately with others in the town. Protests began that day in Sidi Bouzid, captured by cellphone cameras and shared on the internet. Within days, protests engulfed the country with Tunisians demanding President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his regime step down. A month later, Ben Ali fled.

The momentum in Tunisia set off uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East that became known as the Arab Spring. Among other countries, protests rocked Egypt leading to the stepping down of strongman Hosni Mubarak, interestingly Mugabe’s associate.

Another military officer said Zimbabwe finds itself in a similar position where the economic decline has become Zanu PF’s greatest threat more than a once robust opposition now crippled by multiple breakaways.

“We laugh when we read in the media that we are panicking over Mujuru or Zanu PF’s internal fights; instead we are angered by Zanu PF’s never-ending succession battles which pre-occupy our leaders,” he said.

“Instead of concentrating on rescuing the economy and fulfilling its election promises, Zanu PF is channelling all its energies on succession battles forgetting that 2018 is just round the corner and without fixing the economy there might not be a Zanu PF to talk about after 2018.”

The ruling party has dismally failed to meet its electoral promises, including the pledge to create two million jobs.

Contrary to its election manifesto, which promised 2,2 million jobs in the next five years, Zimbabwe has witnessed massive company closures and retrenchments within the last two years, thus swelling the ranks of the unemployed estimated above 90%.

Another senior army commander said Zimbabwe is a time-bomb waiting to explode due to rising poverty, unemployment and worsening electricity supply.

“We surely don’t learn. Zanu PF does not learn. What they don’t realise is that if they don’t fix the economy, a time may come when people will say enough is enough Kusiri kufa ndekupi (we are already dying from inside). People are suffering and they are tired of the fights. They just want jobs, food on the table and to provide for their families.

“As the military, that is what is worrying us from a state security point of view.

We have witnessed what instability and civil war can do to a country – the damage and destruction. None of us want to see that happening in Zimbabwe. That is why we are saying the economy is the country’s greatest threat and power outages are making the situation worse because they will lead to a reduced capacity utilisation in industry, which means less production and more job losses,” one commander said.

“That is what we are panicking about, not the opposition, so-called impeding coalition or Mai Mujuru’s entrance into opposition politics. Remember 2018 is more than two years away from now, so people are watching them fight each other – both in Zanu PF and the MDCs. How about the economy?”

Zimbabweans are equating this period to the economic meltdown amid hyper -infation before 2009, regarded as the worst crisis in Zimbabwe’s recent history.

Energy minister Samuel Undenge announced last week Zimbabwe’s perennial energy crisis is set to worsen by year end after it emerged the country’s sole hydroelectric power plant, Kariba Hydropower Station, will further reduce its generating capacity by more than half to 280 megawatts (MW).

Undenge said power output from Kariba, which dropped from 750 MW in August to current levels of 475MW, will drop further by December, plunging the country into unsustainably long periods of darkness.

Cabinet has agreed to set up a diesel power plant in Mutare by February 2016 to avert a worsening energy crisis that will have devastating repercussions on industry operating on a capacity utilisation of 33,6%, but this will also mean already suffering ordinary Zimbabweans will have to fork out more as this is a costly power generation process.


  • comment-avatar
    Zvakwana 7 years ago

    A few more nails in the coffin.

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    FromTheHip 7 years ago

    Masoja. Even if Zanu PF managed to stop their vicious maneuvering to take over after Mugabe, they are clueless as to how to rescue the country.

    It is like asking mosquitoes to cure their victim-patient of malaria so as to assure their own lives.

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    This article is coming from someone who is trying to set an at agenda.Unfortunately for this person,the military is a professional entity that is very aware and conscious of its constitutional mandate.

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      Zuwarabuda Nyamhute 7 years ago

      “A professional entity?” What a misnomer! The army, at the moment, is very far from being a professional institution, admired and respected by the people. Instead of defending the territorial integrity of Zimbabwe and protecting its people, the army is just Mugabe’s private militia, which is used to instil fear, brutalize the people, and ensure that the autocrat maintains his grip on the levers of power.

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    Thanks Makotsi – we need to hear the voice of Organised Crime in Zimbabwe, just in case we forget.

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    amina 7 years ago

    The threat is neither the economic melt down nor MDC demos or Mujuru, the real threat is the aging of Mugabe. There is panic in the army because as Mugabe ages, there are forces that have gained dominance in the twilight of his life and unfortunately that has not been long enough to influence the incumbent to consolidate their on self. Mnangagwa is still trying to consolidate his power base, on the other hand Grace is a threat to that process. With Mugabe in sight these two forces are at each other case but may not harm anyone except themselves. Grace is at her youth of trying to have significance in the party, but she came to late, the old man is falling on steps, slipping on pavements, needing a helping hand to walk, Mnangagwa is steering the waters of the same pool Grace is trying to swim, delaying that process. Chiwenga could not do much, he is military junior to both Mujuru and Mnangagwa, and it common in the military establishment that Mujuru Solomon still has much following and sympathisers who still believe in the leadership of Joice Mujuru and these are a threat to both Mnangagwa and Grace, with Mugabe in view these forces may not so much show their talons. If economic melt down was a threat, things would have exploded in 2008 when in shops you would see only shelves. There was no salt and even paraffin or candles. Workers would walk to and from work daily without any rest in sight. Yet Mugabe was still strong and could command his hangmen the CIO to deal with truant forces. Now he is not even aware perhaps except that which goes into his mouth. I guess a lot of us did history, any dictator gets problems when he is getting old, this goes far back to the days of Shaka, Munhumutapa Empire, Mbire the lozi empire etc and persons like, Mobuto, and even during the days of the old bible, Solomon and King David, problems follows when one is aging. What is happening in Zimbabwe is natural for any kingdom that follows old traditional process of passing on leadership baton. Mugabe can deal with this urgently by anointing as successor, David did it by anointing Solomon, Samuel did it by anointing Solomon, Elijah appointed Elisha. So this the way to go.

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    It is actually fascinating, like medieval Italy with the Borgias and all that lot.

    Poisoning, treason and plot. But – they never managed to burn anyone to death with a candle, so far as I know? That must be a first for Zim?

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    Mugarbage 7 years ago

    To lose that fat paycheck at the end of the month, that is what those military fear the most. That it should come to this, after all they did for ZANU and organised crime, life is unfair.