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Published On: Mon, Sep 12th, 2016

Zimbabwe’s graduates are unlikely to heed the ban on protests

ZIMBABWE is in the throes of a popular revolt. Since May 2016 hundreds of activists — informal traders, unemployed young people and others — have taken to the capital’s streets to protest against President Robert Mugabe’s government, which responded on Friday, September 2 by banning all demonstrations in the capital, Harare.

The government seems unable to revive the country’s flatlining economy. Activists’ frustrations stem from the government’s failure to meet people’s basic economic expectations: a labour market that provides jobs; a public workforce that is paid on time; a trustworthy, stable currency; and an affordable price regime.

Two of the protesting groups involved after the initial #ThisFlag demonstrations were the Zimbabwe National Students Union and the Zimbabwe Coalition of Unemployed Graduates. There is a long history of student activism in Zimbabwe, but this is the first time that young people who have completed their university education have mobilised as graduates.

On August 3, these young men and women marched into downtown Harare under the banner of #ThisGown — a reference to the robes they wear at graduation.

They have good reason to be angry. They are unable to find jobs that match their skills or meet their expectations. The country’s economy is in crisis and their future in doubt. So what difference will their protests make? If it is to secure their expectations for employment, the outlook is grim.

The ruling Zanu (PF) party has failed to create 2.2-million jobs over the past few years as promised in their 2013 election manifesto. Instead, as the economy has deteriorated, employers have been forced to cut back on staff. This has pushed many graduates from all disciplinary backgrounds into the informal sector where they try to scrape together a living.