As Zimbabwe plunges into its worst economic crisis in a decade, gas lines are snaking for hours, prices are spiking and residents goggle as the new government insists that the country — somehow — has risen to middle-income status.
After ousting the repressive Robert Mugabe almost a year ago following more than three decades in power, and peacefully electing President Emmerson Mnangagwa in July, many hoped the country would emerge from turmoil and return to prosperity.
Instead, it appears to be imploding in the days since the new finance minister announced a “stabilisation programme”. Over the weekend long lines for fuel reappeared, sometimes stretching for several kilometres.
Anxious residents rushed to stores, where prices skyrocketed for dwindling stock and shop workers began removing price stickers. People have started joining any line in sight.
“You ask what the queue is for later. The important thing is to get in the queue, there might be something there,” said Yvet Mlambo, a resident of the capital, Harare.
FOLLOW US ON:
‘At least allow us to drink’
Basic items such as bottled water are now being rationed, even as the capital faces a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 40 people and spread into the countryside.
Even beer is rationed, to some outrage.
“At least allow us to drink. How else can we drown our sorrows?” one man shouted as he stared at a notice limiting customers to two beers per purchase. Drinkers have formed WhatsApp groups to share tips on where favorite brands can be found.
More worryingly, drugs are in short supply in a country where the health system has long been on the brink of collapse.
Outside a pharmacy, Bridget Chikwimba shook her head. “I bought these same allergy pills for a dollar last week, today they are $13,” she told The Associated Press. “I waited five minutes while they calculated the new price.”
The country’s Retail Pharmacists Association describes the shortages of medicines as “severe”.
Many fear the current crisis, induced by foreign currency shortages and a ballooning debt, could spiral into the kind of collapse seen a decade ago when Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation reached 500 billion %, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Plastic bags of 100-trillion Zimbabwe dollar banknotes were not enough to buy basic groceries, forcing Mugabe to form a “unity government” with the opposition and adopt a multi-currency system.
Since then, daily transactions have been dominated by the US dollar. But the new currency shortage has forced most people to use a surrogate currency called bond notes, bank cards and mobile money, all of which are devaluing quickly against the US dollar on the black market.
Retailers said the soaring rates for US dollars on the black market, where they source most of their foreign currency, are making it difficult for them to restock. Some businesses have been forced to close.
“The parallel market is unsustainably high and has decimated confidence. Prices have been going up while margins are eroded,” Denford Mutashu, president of the Retailers Association of Zimbabwe, said.
In the days leading to the implosion, new Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, a former lecturer at the London School of Economics, announced the “stabilisation programme” that included commitments to cut borrowing. He also plans to cut government spending, repay foreign loans to unlock fresh credit and expand the revenue base.
On Friday, Ncube surprised many by announcing that after rebasing the gross domestic product and taking into account the large informal sector, Zimbabwe is now a middle-income economy.
“Our economy is bigger than we think,” he told reporters, but he warned of “pain” to achieve desired growth. “At the end, we will be glad.”
But Zimbabweans have reacted angrily to one of the new measures, a tax on transactions conducted with mobile money and bank cards. Labour unions and others say the poor, without access to US dollars and largely reliant on electronic transfers, will be hardest hit.
Protests have erupted, and more are planned this week, as people say they can’t endure the economic pain any longer.
‘There is no other way’
The crisis could lead to social unrest unless a political settlement is reached between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition, which narrowly lost the presidential election and unsuccessfully challenged the results in court, said Harare-based political analyst Alexander Rusero.
“Zanu-PF should swallow its pride to realise that they desperately need the opposition for the way forward,” Rusero said.
Both parties are instead playing hardball despite efforts by churches and others to bring them into negotiations.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the new president, who was cheered by thousands for replacing Mugabe, is dropping. Once-popular campaign slogans are being mocked.
The road to a more secure future in Zimbabwe is “long, winding and at times bumpy”, Mnangagwa replied in a statement posted on Twitter this week. “But there is no other way.”
TO DOWNLOAD OUR MOBILE NEWS APP CLICK HERE
Nigeria: Woman arrested over Outrageous Viral video of her abusing a child
Police in Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos have arrested a woman filmed abusing a child and then locking him in a caged kennel with dogs.
It is not clear when the footage was shot, but it went viral on Twitter earlier this month.
In the video clip, a woman is seen beating a boy, stripped to his waist, with a belt. She then drags him into an empty kennel and locks it before walking away. Two dogs can be seen in other neighbouring kennels.
The video caused outrage on social media, where shocked users offered rewards to anyone that could track down the woman.
On Thursday, a police spokesperson, Dolapo Badmos, tweeted that the woman in the video had been arrested.
“The suspect is in custody and will be charged to court… The boy, who happens to be an orphan, has been rescued and kept in a shelter provided by Lagos state government,” she said.
Her tweet links to a video filmed by police showing the dog kennels where the boy was locked up:
Nigeria: Imo recovery team storms Okorocha’s premises, recover alleged looted state property
Okorocha Faults Action
Imo State Recovery of Moveable Assets Committee, yesterday, stormed a premises belonging to the immediate past governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, where it discovered properties suspected to be that of the State Government, but allegedly parked in the premises known as All In Warehouse, located on Aba Road, Owerri.
But the Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Ladodo, who arrived the scene laced with crowd, directed that the property should be put in custody of the police. Some of the items included furniture, clothing materials and others.
The chairman of the committee, Ndubuaku, said the committee received credible intelligence information that led to them to storm the premises. He pronounced sealing of the place, directing that nobody, including the Okorochas, should enter the premises till further notice. Ndubuaku said the committee would ensure that all the State Government property illegally stolen were recovered.
But Okorocha, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser (Media), Sam Onwueneodo, described the action of the State Government as unjustifiable.
“This is to inform all men and women of goodwill, that barely two days after the agents of the Economic & Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, had marked the ALL – IN SHOP owned by the wife of the former governor, Dr. Mrs. Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha, located at Naze near Owerri, for investigation also following flood of petitions written to the Commission by PDP government in the State, the leader and members of the government’s Committee on the Recovery of Government Property invaded the shop today (yesterday) July 26, 2019, and looted the goods there, including the ones inside the containers inside the premises.
“We had told all those, who cared to hear us, that the PDP government in the State is out for witch-hunting just to intimidate Opponents, otherwise why invading and looting a Shop with furniture and baby goods, already marked for investigation by the EFCC.
“And the Containers they looted have been in the premises of the shop before the EFCC agents came and marked the Shop for investigation last Tuesday; they are still there before the Jasper Ndubuaku-led gang invaded the place. The question now is, what if at the end of the day, the EFCC’s investigation establishes that this shop has no relationship with the last administration?
“Obviously, Jasper Ndubuka and his gang are not recovering any property but are on looting spree. They were the ones, who petitioned to EFCC and they came and marked the investments they had mentioned in their petitions for investigation. Then, why going to loot the same establishments marked by EFCC for investigation? If Governor Ihedioha had asked question and if he meant well, he would not have entrusted such sensitive task into the hands of a man like Jasper Ndubuaku.
“Nigerians should watch closely the brigandage going on in Imo. Leaders and members of the so-called Government’s Property Recovery Committee are just having the licence to loot with the protection of the State Government. Otherwise, why won’t they allow the EFCC to conclude their investigation?”
“We have been shouting for the world to hear our voice. Aside their inviting the EFCC, we have asked them to publish whatever they have against Rochas Okorocha and the family or anybody that served in the Rescue Mission government, but they have not been forthcoming. The implication of all these is that, where restraint is not applied and the governor cannot control the recklessness, self-help may be the last resort; nobody should be blamed.”