Zimbabwe’s unrest escalated a few notches overnight with activists now urging all public servants to join a national shutdown while the Mugabe Regime tells them its business as usual. And just as with Arab Spring, those agitating for change have turned to campaigns on social media to spread their message. For years, outsiders were bemused at the patience of ordinary Zimbabweans who absorbed growing abuse from an increasingly deranged regime. The only rational explanation is the frog-in-boiling-kettle syndrome – provided heat is only increased slowly, a frog in a pot of water will die before jumping to safety. All living things adapt to environmental changes, sometimes even to the point where they forget about alternatives. Zimbabweans appear to be regaining their collective memory. – Alec Hogg
By MacDonald Dzirutwe
HARARE, July 5 (Reuters) – Teachers, doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe began a strike over unpaid salaries on Tuesday, a day after police used force against protesting taxi drivers in the capital, Harare, as the country’s economy deteriorates.
Zimbabwe is battling its worst drought in a quarter of a century, while the economy is beset by cash shortages, prompting small, spontaneous protests over the past month. Monday’s protests were the first to turn violent since 2005.
President Robert Mugabe has used the police to keep a lid on the protests, but Amnesty International said their response on Monday amounted to a violation of Zimbabweans’ human rights.
Police deployed again on Tuesday in two of the townships that saw violence on Monday, but the situation was calmer. Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said law enforcement agents were on high alert and had arrested 95 people over Monday’s violence.
At Zimbabwe’s two largest state hospitals, Parirenyatwa and Harare Central, non-critical patients were told to come back next week because junior doctors and nurses were on strike, leaving only senior staff to work, Reuters witnesses said.
“The issue is that doctors cannot come to work because they have not been paid. It looks like this (strike) will go on until July 14,” the head of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors’ Association, Fortune Nyamande, said.
The government has said it will pay doctors and nurses their June salaries on July 14 and the teachers on July 7. It has also delayed paying the June salaries of the army and security services by two weeks.
The regime can try 2 stifle the truth from getting out but people don't need whattsapp 2 see 4 themselves that #Zimbabwe has been shut down
— David Coltart (@DavidColtart) July 6, 2016
At most state schools around Harare, students could be seen playing at sports fields in the morning because teachers did not come to work. School heads, who are not allowed to strike under Zimbabwe’s labour laws, reported for duty.
Acting Labour Minister Supa Mandiwanzira said workers had not notified the government about the strike action but added the state was ready to talk to them about their grievances.
Without balance of payment support from the International Monetary Fund or foreign credit from traditional Western donors, Harare runs a hand-to-mouth budget, spending 82 percent of its revenue on wages, which it is struggling to pay.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in London on Monday he hoped multilateral lenders would sign a deal for Zimbabwe to clear its arrears by December, opening the door to possible new funding, the first since 1999.
A social movement called #ThisFlag, launched in April by a young pastor in Harare, has called for a national stay-away day on Wednesday “to shut down the country” in protest against alleged government failures.
In response, Charamba described the stay-away call as the work of criminal elements trying to incite the public, adding that “police will be deployed to ensure safe passage to work.”
BREAKING! News just came from high level sources; Zimbabwe government is in advanced plan to ban and block all social media in days to come.
— Bla B (@bmusonza) July 6, 2016
Mugabe Government urges “go about your normal business”
Harare – President Robert Mugabe’s government ordered citizens to “go about their normal business” on Wednesday as tensions rose ahead of calls for a national shutdown in Zimbabwe.
Acting information minister Joseph Made told state ZBC radio’s evening news bulletin on Tuesday: “Government continues to make it clear that all our citizens, in particular our civil servants should continue to go about their normal business across the country.”
Calls for a shutdown have been growing on the back of protests in Harare on Monday and Beitbridge on Friday. There have been threats on social media against schools and businesses that refuse to close their doors.
In one message widely circulated on WhatsApp, threats were made against well-known private schools in Harare as well as against Pick n Pay, which has stores in the capital and other cities.
“Close your businesses tomorrow. This is for the safety of your staff and buildings. Stay away tomorrow and keep the peace please,” read the message, which could not be verified. “Teachers who chose to put their lives at risk… rethink what your heads are requesting of you.”
— eNCA (@eNCA) July 5, 2016
But minister Made said: “What is of great concern to government is the falsehoods that are being peddled on social media.” He denied reports that police had already imposed a 19:00 curfew in parts of the capital.
Anger is growing in Zimbabwe on the back of cash shortages, the imminent introduction of “bond notes”, the police force’s demand for cash at roadblocks and what is widely seen as a ban on imports that will cut off an economic lifeline for many families.
There is also anger over the beatings police dealt out to some protesters on Monday. Said the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an umbrella grouping of rights organisations: “The state security organs especially the police must forthwith cease to use violence on peaceful protestors… We are in full solidarity with the ordinary citizens.”
While stay-aways have been held several times since 2000, what is different about this one is that it has not been called by any one political party (though it does have the backing of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change).
In some shops late on Tuesday, shoppers were seen stocking up. Commented @kodzafox: “Zimbabweans outchea buying booze and meat like tomorrow’s a national holiday.”