RUN-AWAY inflation, a wave of strikes, a disaffected public service, a worthless currency and political tension on the streets around the country in the heels of a “legitimate” election. 2008 anyone?
But this is 2019. The President is 76-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa and not Robert Mugabe, who was 84 at the time. The rest of the scenario is eerily similar. Inflation is at a 10-year high of 42,09%.
A chronic shortage of dollars that started in 2016 has worsened; the local currency, the surrogate bond note is officially equal to the United States dollar, but trades at four times that on the black market.
Price increases have become a weekly expectation and are winning the race against wages.
The civil service is up in arms with its employer over poor remuneration and most workers are citing “incapacitation”, technospeak for “we cannot afford the bus fare any more”.
In typical Mugabe style, Mnangagwa has rail-roaded the sickly Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) into providing cheap transport to spite the pesky kombis who had the cheek to raise fares in response to a 150% increase in fuel costs! Zupco, of course, does not have the numbers to meet the need so it hired buses from other public transporters in an exercise that will dent the public purse despite the widely talked about austerity measures, but that is a topic for another day.
Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s most prosperous economies, the bread basket of Africa, but under Mugabe became a basket case. The theme has continued under Mnangagwa. On December 7, 2008, CNN reported that the price of a loaf of bread jumped to Z$35 million. Currently, officially it is at $1,40 but is not available. Where it is gettable, the price can be as high as $4.
The government’s 305 000 workers are demanding wage rises in US dollars and teachers, who form the bulk of the civil service, have announced a strike action from February 5. The situation is rapidly unravelling.
In 2008, Zimbabwe held a disputed election, which Mugabe won after a run-off, and was sworn-in for a five-year term. As the economy collapsed before him, and with regional intervention, he talked to the opposition. According to many analysts, the subsequent government of national unity saved the country from total collapse.
Fast-forward to 2019, Zimbabwe held a disputed election last year, which Mnangagwa won, but the political and economic situation in the country has unravelled. Analysts and the international community have said only talks between Mnangagwa and his adversary, Nelson Chamisa of the opposition MDC party, can rescue the situation.
Mnangagwa told journalists this week that he has no basis for talking to Chamisa until the MDC leader acknowledges him as the electoral victor. How about if you engage as leaders of political parties? How about as politicians with a common love interest – Zimbabwe? This country, its people are plenty of basis so will you get off your high horse and put them first?