Economic Hardship Sparks Protests In Zimbabwe

Protests in the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare, have been increasing in size and frequency over the last two years. In fact, the reaction from the government headed by Robert Mugabe has been to pressure the police to use brutal tactics to subvert dissent. The most recent protest occurred on 29 September, 2017, with a reported five people injured. The current protests have been ignited by severe cash shortages in the central bank, which is managed by John Mangudya who has, according to the activists, mismanaged the funds causing greater economic hardship. The majority of the protests are held to address the corruption of the Zimbabwean government and the increasing economic hardship for Zimbabweans.

Mugabe has used fear and intimidation for the last three decades to maintain control, but the young protesters are no longer afraid of standing up to corruption and human rights violations. “We have a future that is being destroyed in this country. And it is our role in this country to rebuild that future,” one activist told CNN. The protesters are leaderless and rely on social media to build and fuel their movement. But some are concerned for the safety of the protesters as police have adopted brutal tactics. Tear gas, beatings and prison time face those that take to the streets in protest. One officer concerned about police tactics told CNN, “If the momentum of these demonstrations continues, I think eventually they are going to use live ammunition. That is my worry.” The government is adopting a zero-tolerance approach to opposition, which could put activists and protesters in potentially life-threatening situations.

Zimbabwe has been suffering ever since Robert Mugabe has been in power, it is no new revelation, and protests have always occurred, yet little has been addressed. And outside influence or intervention is non-existent par sanctions which have relatively no effect. Mugabe turned 93 this year and has been in power for over three decades, which is a testament to the ineffectiveness of individual and economic sanctions. On the other hand, it is not the place for the U.S. or E.U. to step in and involve itself in the matters of Zimbabwe, and they are probably well aware that it would do more harm than good. It is more important for the U.S. and E.U. to support this alternative movement that is gaining traction among the younger generations.

Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1965, but the country continued with a minority white rule. It was not until 1980 after a lengthy guerrilla war that Mugabe seized power from the white minority, becoming the Prime Minister, and has remained ever since. The violent overthrow of the white minority came from the bitterness some of the older generations had towards the colonial rule. In the early 2000’s the remaining white landowners were aggressively forced off their property in a redistribution program led by the Mugabe government, the land was given to supporters of Mugabe’s leadership. Yet now, after three decades of fear and intimidation, many Zimbabweans are seriously questioning his leadership. Even to the point that some of Mugabe’s most avid supporters are wavering.

The protests in the country are certainly making an impact, the government is becoming more unstable as the movement is growing. With the current leadership, political instability is desirable, since governments that are undermined by their population lose power and control, and thus seek measures to re-establish themselves. The Zimbabwean government has used fear and intimidation in the past but that is no longer subverting dissent since people have grown accustomed and have adapted accordingly. Mugabe’s government needs to change their methods and address the problems or they risk increasing instability, on top of the crippling economic circumstances that they already face.