Zimbabwe Gets Worse

After years of printing more and more currency that has fueled mind boggling inflation in Zimbabwe, Mugabe has tried price controls. Not surprisingly that has not worked, but only caused more economic destruction to a vulnerable economy. This Reuters report details the heart of it:

But the British diplomatic source said Mugabe’s price-cutting attack “completely fractured the supply and production chains behind the retail sector, which were pretty fragile in any case. Companies have lost billions of Zimbabwean dollars and … even the black market is beginning to dry up.

“We know we’ll be feeding 4 million people by January or February, possibly more,” he said, warning Zimbabwe was on the verge of “a really very serious food and every other kind of shortage”.

As I know from personal experience Zimbabwe’s thriving black or parallel markets have been the safety valve that has allowed life to go on with some sort of normalcy for so long. Still, I find the idea that Zimbabwe is only ‘verging’ on a serious crisis silly. A quarter of its people have left. The last time I read figures on those dying of starvation late last year the number was 3500 a week – about four times the number of people being killed in Iraq at the same time period. So the real question is whether a sudden worsening of economic conditions is enough to bring change. Perhaps surprising to those unfamiliar with Zimbabwe it may all just be a way of ensuring that Mugabe wins the elections next year by driving out or starving the urban population and leaving mostly intact the rural subsistence based population that supports him. That’s the theory I’ve heard for years although it boggles the mind that getting rid of half a country’s population to win an election is actually a tactic any tyrant could successfully employ.

Instead, in most countries it would be expected that some kind of uprising would take place well before things have reach the current extreme in Zimbabwe. Like in Burma currently where the military government is a paragon of economic competence compared to Mugabe. Still, there is some sign that a spontaneous uprising may occur. In this article in the UK Times a new movement aimed at protesting police brutality in Zimbabwe founded by two Zimbabweans from the UK – Stendrick Zvorwadza and Justin Shaw-Gray – holds out some hope of being a movement around which opposition can coalesce:

The pair have been arrested several times. “My mum is so scared she can’t sleep at nights,” Shaw-Gray said. Yet so far they have signed up more than 15,000 people.

“We tell people if you stand up alone you’re at risk; if five of you stand up, you’re at risk, But if we stand up in our thousands, they can’t do anything,” said Zvorwadza.

They have been working for just two months and if dramatic economic collapse coincides with their efforts they might just succeed. So far the reaction of the Zimbabwean people to slow economic ruin has been like that of a frog in a pot of water slowing being brought to a boil. Although my heart wants to see Mugabe overthrown my head says that it isn’t going to happen. The Times article finishes with this bitterly realistic assessment by a member of the opposition party the MDC (Movement for Democratic Change):

David Coltart, an MDC MP from Bulawayo, said: “There might not be blood in the streets, but people are just falling off the edge everywhere. Pensioners, orphans, child-headed families are literally starving.”

Few see any likelihood of a Ukraine-style uprising. “It’s like asking people in intensive care, why aren’t you protesting,” said Coltart.

Pointing out that there are no guards on the Zimbabwe side of the border, he believes the regime is encouraging people to flee. “Mugabe knows every person who crosses the border is one less vote against him.”

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