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Zimbabwe police fire live rounds during general strike protests

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Zimbabwe police fire live rounds
Photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Zimbabwe police have fired live ammunition and teargas during running battles with groups of young people trying to enforce a nationwide shutdown to protest against the rising cost of living.

The clashes were the worst outbreak of disorder in the southern African country since the aftermath of elections last year when six civilians were shot dead by police.

They came on the first day of a three-day general strike called by unions amid an intensifying economic crisis.

There were clashes in the capital, Harare, and in Bulawayo, a city in the south, as police attempted to disperse groups of youths who had lit fires in streets, erected barricades and, in some cases, looted shops.

Other protesters blocked highways and tried to force companies that had remained open to comply with the shutdown.

In Chitungwiza, a satellite town of the capital where anti-government feeling runs high, a police station was reportedly besieged and automatic gunfire was heard.

In the poor neighbourhood of Mabvuku, four civilians were reportedly shot and injured by police.

One catalyst for the discontent was the government’s decision to increase the price of fuel by 150% on Saturday. There are already acute shortages of imported goods and soaring inflation for basic foodstuffs.

Legacies of the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe, which ended with a military takeover in November 2017, include massive unemployment, huge government debts, an acute shortage of hard currency and a crumbling infrastructure.

“We have suffered enough,” said Philani Nyoni, an author who was part of the protest in Bulawayo. “The government is now aware that we are not happy with their stupid policies like the fuel price increase.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a stalwart of the ruling Zanu-PF party who took over on Mugabe’s resignation and won contested elections in July, has been unable to bring about the economic turnaround he promised voters and investors.

“We are now seeing the results of volatility that has been building for some time and that everyone has been very complacent about,” said Piers Pigou, an expert in Zimbabwe with the International Crisis Group.

The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, issued a call for calm and said it was “in solidarity with peaceful citizen action across the country today”.

“We have warned this government that there is a need for dialogue and nothing has happened. This is what happens when you push people,” said Jacob Mafume, an MDC spokesperson.

The government has accused the strike organisers of pushing a political “regime change” agenda and engaging in “subversive political activities”.

“It has become obvious that there is deliberate plan to undermine and challenge the prevailing constitutional order,” said a government spokesman, Nick Mangwana, in a statement late on Sunday night.

He said the government would “respond appropriately” against “all those who have been conspiring to subvert peace, law and order in the country”.

The mainstream opposition in Zimbabwe appeared to have been taken by surprise by the disorder.

“The opposition appears not to be in charge of leading this,” said Pigou. “The conditions are such that there is a real opportunity for violent disruptive elements, either from within the opposition ranks or some kind of destabilising operation.”

Mnangagwa has struggled to revive Zimbabwe’s ailing economy and is currently travelling in Asia and Europe in an effort to attract foreign direct investment.

Although the 2018 elections were not marred by the type of violence experienced under Mugabe, alleged irregularities during the count and repression after the vote resulted in lukewarm support for Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF from major international powers.

Early efforts by the government to stabilise Zimbabwe’s economy appear to have exacerbated the situation, triggering a massive devaluation of its surrogate and electronic currencies.

The country abandoned its own currency in 2009 after it was wrecked by hyperinflation and adopted the dollar and other currencies such as sterling and the South African Rand.

But there is not enough hard currency in the country to back up the $10bn of electronic funds trapped in local bank accounts, prompting demands from businesses and civil servants for cash that can be deposited and used to make payments.

Zimbabwe’s foreign reserves now provide less than two weeks’ cover for imports, central bank data show.

Mthuli Ncube, the finance minister, told a town hall meeting on Friday the new local currency would be introduced in less than 12 months.

Zimbabweans are haunted by memories of the Zimbabwean dollar, which became worthless as inflation spiralled to reach 500bn per cent in 2008, the highest rate in the world for a country not at war, wiping out pensions and savings.
The Guardian

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NEWS

Kembo Mohadi resigns amid sex scandal

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Kembo Mohadi sex scandal

Zimbabwe Vice President Kembo Mohadi resigned on Monday following local media reports he had engaged in improper conduct.

Kembo Mohadi, along with Constantino Chiwenga, was a deputy to President Emmerson Mnangagwa since 2018, but without a political power base, he was not seen as a potential successor to the president.

In a rare move by a public official in Zimbabwe, Kembo Mohadi said he had taken the decision to step down “not as a matter of cowardice but as a sign of demonstrating great respect to the office of the President”.

I have been going through a soul-searching pilgrimage and realised that I need the space to deal with my problem outside the governance chair,” he said in a statement released by the Ministry of Information.

Local online media service ZimLive has in the past two weeks carried reports that Kembo Mohadi had improper sexual liaisons with married women, including one of his subordinates.

Mohadi, 70, denied the accusations last week saying this was part of a political plot against him. On Monday he continued to deny the accusations saying he would seek legal recourse.

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BUSINESS

Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers

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Zimbabwe White Farmers

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to Zimbabwe white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 Zimbabwe white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing  Zimbabwe white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people. Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West. Reuters

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NEWS

Chinamasa calls U.S. ambassador ‘thug’ as anti-government protests loom

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Chinamasa

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government.

Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power.

“He (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic and if he does so, if he continues engaging in acts of mobilising and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders,” Chinamasa said.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

The U.S. embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to Chinamasa’s comments. Political tensions are rising fast in the southern African nation after activists called for demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they blame for deepening the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Last month, the government summoned Nichols after a senior White House official said Zimbabwe was among “foreign adversaries” using the civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd to interfere in U.S. affairs.

The U.S., Britain, E.U. embassies and the United Nations have all criticised Zimbabwe for the arrest of journalists and political challengers.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West were promising when Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, but have soured over the government’s human rights record.

Patrick Chinamasa urged party supporters to defend themselves from protesters and avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that followed post-election demonstrations in August 2018 and the January 2019 protests over a steep fuel price hike.“No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves,” Chinamasa said. Organisers say this week’s protests will be peaceful. Reuters

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