Zimbabwe could be at the dawn of a political revolution. It could also be business as usual. Amid a confusing week of political spring cleaning in the country, students working towards attaining qualifications in the tertiary sector have spoken out, painting a truly dire picture.
A few days ago BBC News described Zimbabwe as ‘cash-strapped and impoverished’. Despite this the powers that be were poised to initiate a raft of projects in honour of the recently deposed President, Robert Mugabe.
For example, it was revealed earlier this month that the country planned to upgrade its main airport at a cost of US$153 million and to rename it after the man who served as president for 37 years. The airport, currently named Harare International Airport, was to double its passenger capacity, to allow for 6.5 million passengers per year.
Another extravagant project was to include the launching a university worth US$1 billion; also to be named after Mugabe.
Are these plans likely to go ahead? Not much is certain after the military took control of the country on Wednesday 15th, when Mugabe was placed under house arrest.
The military acted after Mugabe sacked Emmerson Mnangagwa. It was Mnangagwa who they knew and trusted; as far as they were concerned he was to be Mugabe’s successor. With pressure from his second wife, however, Mugabe began preparing the way for her to succeed him as President; this was his undoing.
Reuters reported one of the delegates as saying, "He (Mugabe) has been expelled, Mnangagwa is our new leader."
The military is supposedly on a crusade to end corruption in the country. They are arresting government officials in an operation that will reportedly “weed out criminals around President Mugabe.” Incidentally, the officials who have been arrested were closely aligned to Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
The political situation has caused much uncertainty; in a country already reeling from mismanagement; 95% of those with qualifications in the country are unemployed.
And for those presently studying, a history of bad governance presents them with ongoing difficulties.
Ramifications on education and training
Students at the University of Zimbabwe are facing a fees crisis that is leading to many dropouts. Likewise, Zimbabwean distance learners, studying through global online institutions, have expressed their disdain at what has been transpiring in the country. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has reduced (and in some cases banned) international transfers.
This has made it impossible for students to pay their monthly tuition fees. Some resourceful learners have made arrangements to continue paying.
An accounts department for an online institution mentioned that, “Some debtors are asking for financial aid from relatives out of Zimbabwe, and others travel to Musina (on the South African border) every month to pay tuition fees. They secure the forex from the black market -- really.”
Others have had to drop out.
(Interestingly the response to the flailing economy and the shortage of cash in the country has resulted in people investing in cryptocurrencies. Zimbabwe’s Golix bitcoin exchange rose by 10% on the day of the faux-coup.)
Zimbabwe has the highest adult literacy rate in Africa - approximately 92% of its population can read. Despite this extraordinary statistic, poor governance has resulted in soaring unemployment and devastating poverty.
It seems that the uncertainty in the country may persist for some time, but many do believe that there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. If the new government focusses on rebuilding the country they will not be disappointed, the people of Zimbabwe will do what they can to support them.
Brand, Robert, et al. “Zimbabwe Doesn't Have Its Own Currency and Bitcoin Is Surging.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 15 Nov. 2017, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-15/bitcoin-surges-in-zimbabwe-after-military-moves-to-seize-power.
“Is Zimbabwe's Adult Literacy Rate the Highest in Africa?” Africa Check, africacheck.org/reports/is-zimbabwes-adult-literacy-rate-the-highest-in-africa/.