Zimbabwe looks increasingly likely to be heading towards revolution as street protests and national work boycotts become more prominent.
No longer scared to speak out against Robert Mugabe’s decades-long oppressive rule, people have been taking to the streets.
The battered economy means banks have run short of cash, government salaries have not been paid and basic imports have been banned.
Added to that there is a severe drought at the moment leaving millions hungry and the 92-year-old president’s health is increasingly uncertain.
‘People are beginning to ask who the source of their problems is. The anger is mounting,’ Rushweat Mukundu, a political analyst with the Harare-based Zimbabwe Democracy Institute think-tank said.
‘The spontaneous acts we are witnessing now may escalate into mass uprisings.’
A national ‘shutdown’ strike closed many businesses, shops and schools last week, with public transport and some government departments and courts also ceasing to function.
The strike followed days of sporadic protests triggered by a sudden outbreak of demonstrations on the outskirts of Harare over police road blocks accused of extorting cash from motorists.
That unrest, in which at least 113 people were arrested, started on a small scale among public minibus drivers but soon spread, with rocks thrown at police and tyres burnt in roads as unemployed young men joined in.
The riots revealed the long-bubbling frustration normally kept under strict control by Mugabe’s ruthless security forces in a country where 90 percent of the population are not in formal jobs.
A few days earlier, around 70 people were arrested in the town of Beitbridge at the border with South Africa during protests over a ban on imports of commodities such as canned vegetables, powdered milk and cooking oil.
‘Civil servants who were loyal to the government because they were getting salaries or using state infrastructure to engage in petty corruption are now among the discontented,’ said Mukundu.
Even the police and army – essential to Mugabe maintaining power – have been affected, with both forces paid about 12 days late last month.
‘As things stand, there is no capacity to address the crisis,’ Ibbo Mandaza, head of the regional think-tank Southern Africa Political and Economic Series, told AFP.