In this month of July alone, we have seen two different kind of protests, taking place in Zimbabwe. First, on July, 6, 2016, national 'stay-away' protests, organized over the internet via 'WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook social messaging platforms, took place, following fears of an economic collapse amid calls for President Robert Mugabe's resignation. Dozens were arrested across the country. and protests forced the closure of banks and shops.
Then, on July, 12, 2016, Pastor Evan Mawarire handed himself in for questioning at the request of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to the Central Police Station in Harare. He was charged with section 36 for inciting public violence and disturbing the peace.
Second, after President Mugabe denounced publicly the 'stay-away' protest and Pastor Evan Mawarire, alleging that he promoted violence and was sponsored by hostile Western governments, thousands of Mugabe's supporters marched across Zimbabwe, on July, 20, 2016 to express their support, blaming the West sanctions for Zimbabwe economic collapse. For this group of protesters (pro-Mugabe), Robert Mugabe, the most educated President in Africa with 18 degrees, 7 academic, 11 honorary, is the hero who spits in the face of white supremacy, speaks out against Eurocentric hegemony, racialized inequality, neo-colonialism.
Analytical commentary on Zimbabwe's struggles has focused on the nature and causes of the protests and centred mainly on the question of presidential succession. There are no clear answers to who will succeed President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since 1987. Common to all analyses is the challenge of stabilising and democratising the state by dealing both with legacies of the colonial period and their new iterations in the post-colonial era.
Zimbabwe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has failed to develop sustainable institutions that could drive a more democratic vision of sovereignty and liberation. It has also been found lacking in creating a more consensual, hegemonic and much less coercive form of rule. This failure has been central to the demands of dissenting voices and political organizations in the southern African state. It has also brought about a different type of protest against the Zimbabwean government.
From its independence in 1980 to 2009, Zimbabwe was dominated by Mugabe's party the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). A strong showing by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the 2008 general election led to the country's first ever coalition government in 2009. But that government fell with the controversial 2013 elections, which were decided in favor of ZANU-PF by implausibly large margins. Now unrivaled once more, the ruling party has failed to offer anything in the way of economic or political reforms. But, if anything, recent electoral success has weakened the ZANU-PF by concentrating political competition within it.
Since the 2013 elections, convulsions within the ruling party have intensified to unprecedented levels. The recent protests in the public and informal sectors have exposed both the limits of ZANU-PF's politics and the failure of its economic policies. The delays in payment of civil servants in June led to a widespread strike of teachers, health workers and other civil servants. The ruling party has managed for the time being to maintain payment to its security sector.
As if struggles within the ZANU-PF over the succession to the presidency were not bad enough, Mugabe's advanced age and failing health have also left him increasingly unable to control events. And so the country is transfixed by a macabre death watch and an internecine power struggle, and the longer they go on, the more likely that any political transition will be unpredictable, disorderly, and perhaps even violent.
Thus while being deeply vigilant over imperialistic agendas, Mugabe ought to be weary of silencing the voice of people just because it does not neatly fit into his political narrative. For when he does, He is in danger of coming to value his political agendas over the lives it s meant to liberate.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
African Affairs Expert
Photo-Credit: Getty Images of: Zimbabwe's President: Robert Mugabe