Unease in Zimbabwe’s Barracks
December 19, 2008, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Africa, Poverty | Tags: , , , , ,
An unidentified man carries some cash for groceries in Harare, Zimbabwe Wednesday, March, 5, 2008. The Zimbabwean currency tumbled to a record 25 million dollars for a single US dollar Wednesday as Zimbabwe battles with the worlds highest inflation currently pegged at over 100 000 percent. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Militaries are often immune from the tragedies of everyday life, especially in impoverished countries, where their ability to use force gives them a special power and position over civilians.  In many places, while the orphans and landless go to sleep with empty stomachs, the barracks often enjoy a modicum of stability.

In Zimbabwe however, soldiers from the ZNA have begun rebelling against the government of Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe, precisely because they too are feeling the effects of the government’s tragic mismanagement of the economy.  Though largely confined to Harare thus far, and comprised of lower ranking soldiers, the situation is worrisome for Mr. Mugabe and the ZNA.  Earlier in the week, Air Force Commander Perrance Shiri was shot in the arm in an apparent ambush.  Frustration with the longstanding economic crisis, which has made the Zimbabwean dollar worthless, has pushed segments of the military onto the streets, where they have battled with their fellow soldiers in violent street clashes.

Earlier in the day, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced a $10 billion note, which is the equivalent of $20 dollars. Banks have increasingly been unable to meet withdrawal demands and while new currency, according to the Reserve Bank, will “ go a long way in improving workers’ access to cash”, unless the political impasse is solved, it is likely that the Reserve Bank will be forced to take more action in the coming weeks and months.  The government has blamed some of mess on black market currency dealers.

To make matters worse, while Mr. Mugabe has offered to make his opposition rival, Morgan Tsvangirai the Prime Minister, Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has threatened to withdraw from a possible unity government unless 42 abducted members of the party are freed in the coming weeks.

“The MDC can no longer sit at the same negotiating table with a party that is abducting our members and other innocent civilians and refusing to produce any of them before a court of law”

Al-Jazeera’s Jonah Hull speaks with several disillusioned soldiers in the South African town of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal.

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