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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 8th August 2019

Opposition protests target economic crash

Blue Lines

The first reaction to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's plans to mount national protests next week against Zimbabwe's economic meltdown might be: what took them so long?

It also follows the last wave of protests in January when the MDC lagged behind young civic activists, students and trade unionists who demanded that the government, with several millionaires in its ranks, do more to protect the poor. Instead of fixing the economy, they complained, President Emmerson Mnangagwa's regime was hiring companies to lobby against sanctions and spy on text messages and social media.

Those arguments will be sharpened further with the announcement by the UN that a third of Zimbabwe's 17 million people face a food crisis this year, worsened by what is forecast to be the worst drought for two decades.

This coincides with Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube's tough new reforms, slashing state spending as inflation hits 500% (although statistics are to be withheld for the rest of the year). There are also chronic shortages of bread and fuel as foreign exchange reserves dry up, and power cuts of 18 hours at a time. After reintroducing the Zimbabwe dollar and banning local use of the US dollar, the government is waiting until the IMF and the banks back its plan with some hard cash. That may not be enough as the government readies itself for an opposition on the march.