Zimbabwe’s financial problems multiply

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Picture: Philimon Bulawayo / Reuters
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Picture:
Philimon Bulawayo / Reuters

Zimbabwe’s economy is running out of cash. Its worst drought in decades is aggravating financial collapse.Zanu-PF is riven by infighting, and a marriage counsellor turned social media hero is mobilising thousands of workers to paralyse the country.

These are just some of the challenges encircling President Robert Mugabe‚ at 92 the world’s oldest head of state. He has cracked down on opponents‚ dialled up anti-Western rhetoric and threatened anyone who steps out of line.

This month‚ the government moved to increase surveillance of social media and cellphone operators.The army said it was on high alert for cyber-terrorism‚ which it says aims to destabilise the government .

But with protests now spreading to some of Zimbabwe’s rural areas that have traditionally been Mugabe strongholds‚ the growing scale of the challenges has prompted former party officials‚ Western diplomats and political opponents to question how much longer the man who led Zimbabwe’s independence war and has ruled the nation for 36 years can stay in power.

Political-risk firm Verisk Maplecroft’s Africa head, Charles Laurie, said: “What you have is highly incendiary conditions in Zimbabwe . . . [It’s] ripe for a power grab.” Although not formally on the agenda‚ the recent upheaval – and uncertainty over a potential successor to Mugabe – are likely to come up at a summit of southern African leaders in Swaziland next week.

Mugabe has survived crises by cutting deals with rivals and ruthlessly quelling dissent. But now the president faces a growing public challenge from a protest movement personified by Evan Mawarire‚ a Pentecostal pastor who until this year was doling out relationship advice to a congregation in the capital‚ Harare .

The political backlash comes as Zimbabwe’s economy is sliding towards its biggest crisis since 2009‚ when hyperinflation forced it to adopt the US dollar.

For the past two months‚ the government has been late in paying its military‚ police and other public employees, while Zimbabwean banks have restricted the amount of cash that can be withdrawn.

On July 26‚ daily volume at the Zimbabwe stock exchange dropped to $105 (R1 400)‚ down from about $1-million (R13.6-million) at its peak.

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