Emerson Mnangagwa be warned: newly energised protesters will not melt away
Making petrol more pricey for poor Zimbabweans — the majority of the nation’s people — just adds to their hardship and further slows a crippled economy
When economically challenged rulers try to run nations, especially fragile ones, they can easily make mistakes.
In the past few weeks demonstrators have taken to the streets of Khartoum and Omdurman to protest against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s removal of subsidies that have long kept bread and fuel affordable.
Now it’s Zimbabwe’s turn.
Just before flying off to Russia last weekend, President Emmerson Mnangagwa doubled the price of petrol. Doing so brought already impoverished urban Zimbabweans out onto the streets of the capital Harare as well as Bulawayo and a dozen other cities and towns. Protesters blocked roads with tyres, trees and rocks, stopped bus transport, attacked the police, threw canisters of tear gas back at security forces and generally ran amok. At least five people were reported to have been killed. Flights into Harare were cancelled and the government closed down the internet.
Mnangagwa’s excuse for raising prices so abruptly is not clear. Possibly he thinks that more costly petrol will bring more cash into national coffers that are mostly bare. Or perhaps he believes that more petrol will pour into the country via the pipeline from Beira in Mozambique if it is more valuable. Both ideas are barmy. Before flying off to Russia, Mnangagwa said that the fuel price rise was intended to reduce sh...