Zimbabwe is no stranger to turmoil as Robert Mugabe’s tenure runs into its 36th year, with his iron-fisted rule has becoming synonymous with financial mismanagement, deprivation of civil liberties and brain drain, yet a fresh wave of demonstrations has tested the ruler more so than ever.
In a quagmire-ridden state, protests have taken place near nearly daily against ZANU-PF led corruption and a nosediving economic situation, however these actions have been met with fierce resistance by the state apparatus, responding with water cannons and tear gas in a futile effort to disperse crowds and restore order. As a result of the ongoing civil disobedience, the Mugabe government has responded to the dilemma by banning any public gatherings for the next two weeks, quashing a planned march by a loose coalition of eighteen opposition parties on Friday. Their actions were said to be merely postponed until the ban is lifted, which happened earlier than anticipated as the Zimbabwe court overturned the ban yesterday.
The Zimbabwean Police claim that one of the opposition parties in the country, the Zimbabwe People’s Democratic Party, had instigated to blow up the offices of The Herald newspaper, which is said to tow the ZANU-PF line. Moreover, allegations have also been made that buses, government vehicles and buildings were also to be targeted in an anti-ZANU-PF campaign, yet such claims have not been verified by a third party source.
The running tensions in Zimbabwe come to a delicate time in the country, as the 2018 general election looms ever closer. With Robert Mugabe wanting to extend his rule furthermore, the prospect of a centenarian authoritarian leader pledging to rule into a fourth decade may be a bitter pill for regular Zimbabweans to swallow given the political and economic circumstances for which they live under. Opposition parties are under enormous strain to form a quick-fire coalition to unseat the ruling ZANU-PF, leading the opposing factions to form the Coalition of Democrats (CODE) in an effort to represent those who do not wish to tow the party line. National Election Reform Agenda (NERA) another group focusing on electoral reform, have also pledged to assist in the democratisation efforts in the fields of combatting voter fraud and intimidation.
Other notable opposition figures that were prominent during the 2008 political crisis in Zimbabwe have resurfaced for another push towards pressuring Robert Mugabe to resign. Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been the victim of beatings and assassination attempts in the past, and expelled ZANU-PF politician Joice Mujuru have agreed to work together on a new agenda in organising and mobilising further demonstrations and rallies, in conjunction with former Minister of Finance and now opposition leader Tendai Biti, signalling a mass haul of defections over the past few years.
Despite the newly-charged momentum behind the anti-Mugabe camp, the opposition needs to exceed in their 2008 efforts for democratic change without compromising the safety and security of their protesters. Should any barrier be breached in regards to defying government orders not to demonstrate, Tsvangirai and others may be subject to the same intimidation and harassment that had marred their efforts eight years ago.
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