The economy is in the mind of every Zimbabwean. Hope was what many said kept them above water, but that is now running thin. Amid a continued decline in the socioeconomic status of the southern African nation, tempers have begun to flare.
Organisers of protest movements came together on Tuesday to make demands for key policy changes. They want the government to prioritise the interests of citizens who they say are suffering while the political elite are living luxurious lifestyles.
The organizers issued a joint statement urging the government to address the worsening economic situation. Pastor Evan Mawarire who led the #ThisFlag movement, read out the statement.
“The unprecedented mobilisation of Zimbabweans everywhere has begun,” said Mawarire, who took the nation by storm early this year with his protest movement #ThisFlag. “We are standing together yet again to say: No, enough is enough.”
Civil society groups have been putting pressure on President Robert Mugabe’s government to address the country’s severe food shortages and financial crisis. Their demonstrations have been met with heavy police reactions and often ended in clashes. Several organizers, including Pastor Mawarire, are frequently arrested and detained.
“This Zimbabwe we want is within reach. But it is only within reach if we come together, stand together, speak together and act together,” Mawarire told a huge gathering in the capital Harare.
“Today as we challenge our government, we invite you on a journey of finding each other for that one common goal, creating the Zimbabwe we want. Across tribal lines, racial divides, political affiliations and generational lines, let us find each other and save this country,” he added.
A cash-strapped government
Zimbabwe’s economy hit rock bottom last year, forcing the central bank to introduce a controversial surrogate currency, the bond notes. “We are caught between a rock and a hard place,” political and economic analyst Shingi Munyeza told DW.
Zimbabweans have been protesting the economic hardship in the country
The government abolished the local currency in 2009 due to the high inflation rate and adopted a multicurrency system, using mainly the US dollar and the euro. But a shortage of foreign currencies on the national market pushed Harare to ditch that as well and opt instead for the bond notes.
Munyeza argues that adopting austerity measures could put Zimbabwe back on track. But he does not think that the ruling Zanu-PF party can afford to implement further austerity measures. “Those in power are unlikely to implement austerity measures because it is the very thing that will kick them out of power,” he said.
Zimbabwe, which has been led by 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe for the past 37 years, is due to hold elections in mid-2018. Mugabe intends to bid for re-election, but the loose group of civil society organizations intends to stand in his way.