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Wave Of Strikes Subsides, But Zimbabwe Government Still Vulnerable

The government of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has navigated some rough waters in the first few months of 2007, facing severe labor unrest before managing to obtain agreements with striking doctors, teachers and disgruntled civil servants. But observers say Mr. Mugabe and his government have won but a temporary respite.

Just as doctors returned to work last week, lecturers at the University of Zimbabwe walked out. And with inflation running at a shocking 1,600% a year is eating up the gains workers have secured, so unrest could be on the boil again soon.

Despite pay increases amounting in some cases to 300%, economic hardship if not a struggle for physical survival remains the grim daily reality for most Zimbabweans, and continued economic decline threatens the government’s long-term viability.

The government has moved to put a lid on dissent by banning political rallies for three months. But the opposition senses - and many observers domestic and foreign agree - that a political transition may be closer than any time since independence.

To assess where the events of the past two months have left the government and the country, and to look ahead at what the near future might bring, reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to political analyst and lecturer John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe, and journalist Andrew Meldrum, who covers Southern Africa for the Guardian and Observer papers in London.

Makumbe said that while the wave of strikes has subsided, the president's proposal to postpone the 2008 presidential election until 2010 in a so-called "harmonization" of election schedules, combined with economic woes, leaves Harare vulnerable.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...