Letters: Vulnerable households face challenges as prices shoot sharply

The year-on-year inflation rate also continued on an upward trajectory, with both headline and food inflation based on the Zimdollar increasing from 132% to 192% and from 155% to 225%, respectively.

INFLATION continues to escalate with the month-on-month inflation increasing by 9,7 percentage points from 21% in May to 30,7% in June 2022.

The year-on-year inflation rate also continued on an upward trajectory, with both headline and food inflation based on the Zimdollar increasing from 132% to 192% and from 155% to 225%, respectively.

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency during the month of June, the Total Consumption Poverty Line for one person rose to $18 425, with food needs accounting for a total 75% ($13 8750) of the costs and this translates to a monthly cost of living for a family of six of $110 550.

The continued increase in the cost of living in the face of salary stagnation led to reduced economic activity in the informal sector and is likely to continue negatively impacting and exacerbating vulnerabilities among low-income and resource-constrained urban and rural households whose income is mainly in Zimdollars and have limited access to foreign currency.

Compared to other Sadc countries, the inflation rate in Zimbabwe remains higher than the rest of the Sadc members.

The nation has a headline inflation above 50% (currently 192%), which is indicative of internal causes of inflation spikes over and above imported inflation.

The Zimdollar has continued to lose value against the United States dollar on both the official and parallel money exchange markets.

During the last Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe auction of June, the Zimdollar was trading at $379,23 against the US dollar, which is 21% higher than the month of May, while on the parallel market it was trading at $710 to the US dollar, which was 54% higher than in May.

In June 2022, the gap between the official and parallel market exchange rates increased from 52% to 94% due to a sharp increase in percentage change in the parallel market exchange rate against a drop in the official market.

This percentage increase in the parallel market rate during the month of June is the highest in the past 12 months and is indicative of distortions in market prices which will most likely promote speculative behaviour.

Between May and June 2022, the cost of a basic food basket in monitored rural markets increased by 31% in Zimdollar terms and decreased by 3% in US dollar terms.

Over the last year, the cost has increased by an average of 129% in Zimdollar terms and by 9% in US dollar.

When compared to last month, maize grain saw the greatest price rise — increasing by 180% and could be explained by both movements in exchange rates and unavailability of the commodity on the markets.

Vulnerable households from deficit-producing areas are likely to be facing financial challenges in accessing the commodity as a result of the sharp price increases. –World Food Programme

The authoritarian politics of COVID-19 in Zim
IN the United States and around the world, societies struggled to balance the sometimes draconian social controls needed to combat a highly contagious infectious coronavirus disease with the need for limits on government power and the protection of civil liberties.

Public health concerns were used to justify crackdowns on opposition politicians, the manipulation of vital humanitarian assistance, and the emergency overriding of mechanisms meant to prohibit private gain at the public’s expense.

In societies where the scales had already tipped toward authoritarianism before the emergence of COVID-19, the disease provided cover for the further consolidation of power and abuse of citizens.

Zimbabwe is a clear example of the trend. But the endgame for Zimbabwe’s government remained very uncertain.

Government’s shocking campaign to persecute political opponents, which has long been a constant that varies only in intensity over time, was ramped up once again.

To take only one egregious example, three members of the main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change party, legislator Joannah Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were detained at a security checkpoint in May 2020, ostensibly for violating lockdown orders to attend a peaceful protest.

The three women were subsequently abducted, tortured and sexually assaulted.

True to form, government officials publicly mooted wild theories claiming that the allegations were fabricated, or that a mysterious “third force” could be responsible.

A few weeks later, the three women were arrested for allegedly lying about their ordeal.

Meanwhile, hunger stalked Zimbabwe even before the economic outlook dimmed for the entire region as a result of the pandemic.

The World Food Programme indicated that half of the population was severely food insecure, and that urban hunger will get even worse by next spring.

But the urgency of the crisis did not stop government from arbitrarily shutting down urban spaces, or from politicising the distribution of food aid to punish citizens who supported the opposition.

Likewise, the desperate circumstances of the population did not stop government officials seeking to capitalise on the pandemic to enrich themselves.

Officials were compelled to cancel inflated contracts for medical supplies with a consulting firm linked to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his family, but not before berating journalists for covering the story.

As eagerly as government was seized on this crisis to consolidate power and wealth, there was little evidence of a viable plan for the future.

Brutality could not tame the second highest inflation rate in the world, make government’s “command agriculture” scheme anything more than a vehicle for elite corruption, or help the country manage the global economic consequences of COVID-19.

Rumours of toxic rifts in the senior ranks of government and even coup plots illustrate the limits of Zimbabwe’s authoritarian consolidation, even in a crisis. – Michelle Gavin

Let’s use African films to unify the continent

AFRICAN movies are transforming the entertainment landscape.

The award-winning African film, Vuta N’Kuvute (Tug of War), a 2021 Tanzanian creative, mesmerising and nostalgic film, is unifying and bringing back the lost touch with history to big screens across African cinemas.

African movies, just like this one, directed and co-written by a true African auteur, Amil Shivji, remind us how important filmmaking is towards integration and development.

Africa has more than 1,37 billion people across 54 countries, exhibiting various economic projections, political approaches and cultural diversity that makes the entire region iconic.

History has taught us a vital lesson that any country that has a strong creative economy exhibits strong national economic trends.

Africa as a region is full of creativity, and the filmmaking landscape is one of the richest and most diverse areas, with the potential to transform stereotypes and economies and cement identity in communities.

By 2021, Africa had a collective gross domestic product (GDP) of US$2,7 trillion. The entire chain of producing and distributing movies is essential and transformative.

According to a UN Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation 2021 report, Africa’s film and audio-visual sectors could create over 20 million jobs and contribute US$20 billion to the continent’s combined GDP.

Over the past decades, economic blocs such as Sadc and the East African Community have exploited the vitality of inter-regional trade and enabled integration to percolate through and made trade unions, business persons and local tourists participate fully in building economies.

The creative sector is yet another field that comes to the fold with a rather unique and potent device that connects people of different cultural orientations and walks of life through one key feature — visual storytelling.

Africa, as a fast developing region, has been crafting a strategic integration approach. In 2019, the African Union (AU) designated July 7 every year for the continent to celebrate “African Integration Day”.

In this spirit, African nations use the day to celebrate major achievements attained in the regional and continental integration process and ponder over critical lessons learned.

The journey to realise the continent’s integration is paved with success stories that show how integration could be Africa’s gateway to excellence in all spheres of development.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was the first milestone attained in the wake of the integration ambition.

AU argues that integration is a crucial aspect of the continent to become an economic community. For that to happen, six successive stages must be taken, which include the strengthening of sectoral co-operation, the creation of regional free trade areas, the establishment of a continental customs union, a common market and a monetary and economic union.

Further, AU notes that over the last two decades, Africa had registered a 4,6% growth rate on average, despite economic challenges faced over the past years – Idealist