Thursday, 7 July 2016

Zimbabwe's long hard transition

A new protest movement known as #ThisFlag is gaining momentum in Zimbabwe after one of the biggest stayaways in cities for a decade on 6 July. At the head of #ThisFlag is Evan Mawarire, a 39-year-old pastor who launched a social media campaign in April to make Zimbabweans proud of their country again.

As the latest economic crisis bites harder, this raises the prospect of a powerful wave of anti-government action across the country. Activists were encouraged by the start of a strike by doctors, teachers and nurses on 5 July over the delayed payment of last month's salaries. The previous day minicab drivers clashed with police over bribery at checkpoints. And on 1 July, activists burned down a bonded warehouse at Beitbridge near the border with South Africa to protest against new import bans introduced by the government.

These signs of deepening political trouble were at the centre of the conference organised by Africa Confidential on 5 July in London – Zimbabwe: Rebooting and Rebuilding – which brought together a range of figures from the government, the opposition, business and civil society. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa insisted the government's plan to clear its arrears with the international financial institutions was going ahead and there was no plan B. Yet former Finance Minister and opposition leader Tendai Biti said that there would have to be a transitional government to restore public confidence and implement reforms.

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