An opinion piece by Jason Burke in The Guardian has lamented the state of the nation amidst an economic meltdown that has hit the country for the second time in a decade. Jason first described what he saw on the streets of Harare and other parts of the country.
In the streets of Mbare, the children play, neighbours talk and a wintry sun lights neat houses with carefully tended vegetable plots. But the apparent tranquillity of this poor suburb of Zimbabwe’s capital hides a rude reality of misery and despair
Another clue is the noise. When more than a dozen families share a single 10-metre by 20-metre courtyard, there is little peace. Through one gate, in one such compound, Rose Mkhomo, 27, nurses her 15-month-old, Brenda. Her neighbour, Maria Peter, 19, is lucky: she has a job in a photocopying shop, though her monthly earnings barely cover two weeks’ living expenses. “Life is hard for everyone now,” she said.
Jason then talks about the general life that most Zimbos are subjected to these days:
… living conditions for millions have deteriorated dramatically. Mkhomo’s husband earns the equivalent of about £40 a month working in a hospital morgue. The couple pay a monthly rent of £15. A kilogram of sugar is almost £22. Bread is unaffordable. “When Mugabe went, we thought things would get better … but it has gone from bad to worse,” said Mkhomo, who is unemployed.
In recent weeks, the government has imposed austerity measures in an effort to balance the national budget, cutting subsidies of fuel. Mthuli Ncube, the Finance minister, has also moved to end the use of multiple currencies, launching a new Zimbabwe dollar. Poor harvests, a cyclone and a drought have compounded problems. The government stopped publishing annual inflation statistics when they reached 175%.
Many others in Mbare and elsewhere are surviving on two meals a day – a breakfast of tea and home-baked dough, with spinach and maize meal for dinner.
The learners are walking to school on empty stomachs. They are collapsing in class because they are so weak. The teachers can’t pay for their own children’s education. But people are looting millions
Outside Harare, by far the largest city, circumstances are different. Expectations of reform are lower, humanitarian need is greater. The United Nations says more than five million people, almost a third of the population and almost entirely in rural areas, will be in need of food aid. “This year we have more hungry Zimbabweans than ever before.
Some in Zimbabwe continue to make considerable sums of money. The taste for luxury cars among the very wealthy has led to a new genre of social media posts featuring the vehicles driven by MPs, well-connected businessmen and top officials on Harare’s potholed streets. In the city’s wealthy districts, restaurants are still busy and shops offer the latest iPhone.
Mr Burke then talks about what must or could be done to quell the dire situation.
There are alternatives to the west and the big international lending institutions, and though these will never provide the funds necessary to refloat the economy and rebuild the country, they might inject enough cash to allow those who hold power to retain it. Powers such as Russia and China are wary, but there are resources to trade — platinum, gold, diamonds — which are attractive to unscrupulous outfits that thrive in similar environments across the continent.
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