The London Times headline says “Violence Looms as Zimbabwe runs out of food – except for the elite”, but I doubt there’ll be much violence.  Unless there is a successful military coup, any attempt to overthrow Mugabe’s Marxist dictatorship will be as ruthlessly crushed as others were in the past.
But there is no question that Zimbabwe’s people are suffering badly.  Almost all commodities have been withdrawn from shops since Mugabe enforced a price freeze in a vain attempt to counter runaway inflation (last recorded at over 7,000%).  This Canute-like diktat by Mugabe resulted in supermarkets being filled with… empty shelves.  That’s no wonder, when (last time it was calculated) it cost Z$55,561 to produce a loaf of bread that shopkeepers were forced to sell for Z$30,000.  Not only are bakers unable to pay for ingredients and wages, but no one will provide them with flour any more anyway.  That’s even if there was any wheat available to mill; back in 1990, Zimbabwe’s wheat yield was 325,000 tons – 70% of their annual requirement.  Last year, the wheat yield was down to 78,000 tons – a drop of 78% since Mugabe stole the farms from farmers and gave them to his cronies.  (Before Mugabe came to power in 1980, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe’s former name) was self sufficient in all its food requirements, and renowned as the breadbasket of Africa.)
When Mugabe’s price freezes failed so catastrophically, he imposed a wage freeze, angering trade unions.  Unions are calling for a strike, but are afraid to even demonstrate for fear of “…violent state reprisals” (Reuters Africa).  The strike will fail.
Violent state reprisals and Mugabe’s military are not the only reason I doubt there’ll be civilian violence or uprising.
Way back in the 1980s, Mugabe made the traditional leaders of the Zimbabwean people (tribal Chiefs) his servants.  This was done first by using traditional spirit mediums (religious leaders who control the selection of secular, hereditary Chiefs) to replace any Chiefs that did not support Mugabe with more compliant Chiefs.  Chiefs are paid by Mugabe’s government, so they have little choice but to continue supporting him.  Chiefs tell their people who to vote for; if they get that “wrong”, their pay is withheld and they are replaced.  Chiefs administer tribal justice, and allocate land and food to their subjects.  People in the Western World do not seem to understand that rural Africans (the majority in Zimbabwe) and even most urbanised Africans will look to their traditional Chief for guidance on how to vote in any election.  (And for any other important decision.)
Apart from the military and/or the police, only the Chiefs could lead an uprising.  So all potential leaders are in Mugabe’s pay.  Zimbabwe’s opposition politicians are helpless without the support of either the Chiefs or the military.  Because of this, I predict that Zimbabwe will continue to suffer for the foreseeable future, no matter what happens to the economy.
With the best and strongest economy and infrastructure in Africa south of the Sahara (apart from South Africa itself), Rhodesia had a great future that could have been Zimbabwe’s.  It has taken Mugabe and his government twenty-six long, painful years to destroy this beautiful, bountiful country and to bring its people to ruin.  Zimbabweans have Western Liberals, and the Chinese Communists who armed Mugabe’s terrorists during the 1960s and 70s, to thank for their suffering.
Peter Davies was a territorial soldier in Rhodesia from 1963 to 1975, where he took part in the capture and interrogation of terrorists. Davies’ novel, Scatterlings of Africa, is based on his own experience in the war, and personal observations of how terrorist activities impacted Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and its people.
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