Accessibility links

Threats Mount to Establishment of Zimbabwe Unity Government

Students from the University of Zimbabwe have been tear gassed and arrested for demonstrating on campus against fees that require foreign currency.

On Monday, a notice appeared on a board at the University of Zimbabwe telling students they had to find $400, in U.S. currency, in order to take exams in eight days.

The government has legalized use of foreign currency because the Zimbabwe dollar is worthless.

The university also said that fees for the second semester, amounting to $1,000, had to be paid before students could begin their studies.

In Zimbabwe, even $10 U.S. is an enormous amount of money for ordinary people to find when more than 90 percent of the few employed people, including public servants, are paid in Zimbabwe dollars.

The university administration did not give students advance warning about the impending foreign-currency requirements.

Students angry about new fees

Hundreds of students began demonstrating against the fee early Tuesday. Some threw stones at passing traffic. Scores of armed riot police descended on the campus, released tear gas and then arrested about 60 students, five of whom were injured and needed medical attention.

The group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights says it is attending to the students who have been detained.

The University, once one of Africa's best, has several closed departments because staff and teaching materials are not available. Residence halls are closed because there is no money for essential repairs, so students from outside the Harare area have to rent rooms to stay in.

There are about 200 Zimbabwean students on presidential scholarships at South African universities, but this group is mainly children of senior members of ZANU-PF. President Robert Mugabe's daughter, Bona, studies at the University of Hong Kong under an assumed name. Children of the elite mostly study outside Zimbabwe.

The university protest was the first connected with the disappearance of Zimbabwe's currency. All goods and services are now charged in hard foreign currency, mostly the U.S. dollar and the South African Rand.

ZANU-PF a no-show at negotiations

Meanwhile, the MDC says ZANU-PF has failed to attend negotiations as instructed by the SADC communique following last week's summit, which concluded that a unity government had been agreed upon by the two MDC parties and ZANU-PF.

Article 7 of the communique instructs the three parties to immediately consider legislation proposed by Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC for establishment of a National Security Council to replace Robert Mugabe's private, but powerful, committee of service chiefs.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said ZANU-PF has deliberately avoided making time for the discussions ordered by the SADC. The failure to conclude these negotiations jeopardizes the scheduled Wednesday parliament debate of a constitutional amendment to enable formation of a unity government by the middle of this month.