Potential Hot Spots: Zimbabwe

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May 11, 2006: In Zimbabwe, Operation Maguta is failing. This is a government "emergency agriculture plan" that put the military in charge of farms and food. Among other things, the military was in charge of maize (corn) production. However, the food crisis has only gotten worse.

There is growing unrest. On May 8, eighteen students at Bindura University were beaten and then arrested by police. One student was seriously injured. The students were holding a demonstration to protest a rise in student fees ( by 1000 percent.) The Zimbabwean government believes university student groups are potential hot beds of opposition to the regime. On May 4, 48 students were arrested in Harare because a poster featuring dictator Robert Mugabe was "vandalized" at the student meeting. Also on May 4, approximately 100 women student protestors in Bulawayo were arrested for protesting the fee hikes. Most of these women were released on May 5. Zimbabwean students object to more than educational fee increases. Unemployment is high in Zimbabwe (by some estimates 70 percent of the potential work force).

In response to the growing unrest, the government has bought some coup insurance. Government workers and the military have gotten a big raise in pay. Some civil servant and military salaries were increased by 300 percent. Zimbabwe has been experiencing run-away inflation (in March it hit an annual rate of 900 percent). Even the lower ranks in the military received a significant boost. Junior enlisted troops are now paid about $260 a month, which is a very high salary by Zimbabwean standards. The "average income" for a family is supposedly between $100 and $150, though that may be optimistic. Dictator Robert Mugabe wants to insure the military's loyalty. Increasing the military's pay is one way to do it.

 

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