Lets hope this is his last birthday

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BWV 1080
Posts: 4451
Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 10:05 pm

Lets hope this is his last birthday

Post by BWV 1080 » Wed Feb 21, 2007 7:50 am

HARARE, Zimbabwe (Reuters) -- Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe turns 83 on Wednesday, fit for his age and combative in the face of a crumbling economy, social unrest and a looming battle over who will succeed him.

Mugabe, the subject of frequent health rumors but who last year said he feels like a 28-year-old, will celebrate his birthday with a huge party on Saturday.

But gathering clouds risk overshadowing the festivities.

Critics accuse Mugabe -- one of Africa's longest-serving leaders -- of plunging the southern African state into a severe political and economic crisis through controversial policies.

Although Mugabe has managed to ride out the storm in the past seven years, political analysts say he faces a more potent threat now because the economy -- seen by the World Bank as the fastest shrinking outside a war zone -- could spark anti-government protests.

On Sunday, police riot squads fired tear gas and water cannon to stop a major opposition rally which the government said was a launch pad for a new street campaign against Mugabe's rule.

"The economic situation is deteriorating so fast ... and as it does, Mugabe's own situation gets more and more desperate," said John Makumbe, a veteran political commentator and an outspoken Mugabe critic.

"The deteriorating economy may prove a much more implacable opponent even for a cunning politician like Mugabe, and I think we are going to see more social unrest and that unrest will destabilize Mugabe and ZANU-PF (the ruling party)," he added.

Critics say Mugabe, a master of political intrigue, has so far seen off challenges through tough policing, vote-rigging, skillful use of political patronage to reward his supporters and terror to cow his rivals.

But Mugabe -- who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980 -- is losing his grip on the economy, which has all but collapsed since he ordered the seizure of white-owned farms to give to landless blacks in 2000, gutting the key commercial agriculture sector.

Along with the world's highest inflation rate of 1,600 percent, Zimbabwe has seen unemployment climb to 80 percent while food, fuel and foreign exchange are in short supply.

"The state of the economy is going to define our politics this year," said political science professor Eldred Masunungure of the University of Zimbabwe.

"And so far it is pointing to a year of labor and political unrest, although the unrest may not be strong enough to force a change in government."
Another front

Since the start of the year, Zimbabwe has suffered a spate of industrial strikes for higher wages, including by doctors and some teachers, and unions are threatening more job boycotts.

Outside the economy, analysts say Mugabe faces a battle in his own ruling party over his possible successor and whether to retire at the end of his current term next year.

Mugabe's ZANU-PF has approved the first steps of a plan to postpone the 2008 presidential elections to 2010 -- effectively handing Mugabe another two years in office -- so that the polls are "harmonized" and held together with a parliamentary vote.

But analysts say this has not won the backing of some top officials, who could organize themselves to challenge Mugabe.

The ruling party's policy-making central committee is expected to debate "the harmonization program" at a meeting before April, and likely push it for approval by parliament by mid-year.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which has been weakened by a leadership split and Mugabe's combative approach, is also threatening to tackle Mugabe on the issue with a resistance campaign.

"It's a year full of fights, but it's difficult to say at the moment who is going to win," Masunungure said.

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Post by piston » Wed Feb 21, 2007 8:18 am

And these data are more than one year old:

HIGHEST INFLATION: 2005
1. Zimbabwe 585.0%
2. Iraq 40.0
3. Guinea 25.0
Burma 25.0
5. Zambia 19.0
6. Angola 17.7
7. Afghanistan 16.3
8. Iran 16.0
9. Venezuela 15.7
10. Nigeria 15.6
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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