Zimbabwe’s economic and political woes


By —— Bio and Archives September 22, 2008

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Harare, Zimbabwe-A middle-aged woman (Mrs Moyo) wakes as early as 4 a.m. to rush into town. Today she hopes to beat the long zigzagging queue at the bank and possibly be in the top ten who are going to be served first. But alas, when she reaches the building society along Sixth Street, much to her dismay, there are already thirty people. Other women, older than her are wrapped in blankets, a sign that last night they made their home in the pavement leading to the bank’s entrance.

Today, the power sharing deal that Zimbabwe’s political rivals, Robert Mugabe of Zanu PF, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Professor Arthur Mutambara of the breakaway MDC formation signed is just one week old. The euphoria surrounding the signing ceremony in the capital Harare is slowly dying down as people continue to face daily struggles to make ends meet.
 
Though Mrs Moyo and other Zimbabweans like her did not expect the deal to bring immediate results to Zimbabwe’s economic and political woes, at least they didn’t expect a return to long queues for one’s own hard-earned cash. To make matters worse,  depositors’ daily cash withdrawal limit is only $1000, an amount that can buy one loaf of bread and one wonders why people jostle and push each other for such a meager amount.
 
An American media professor, at a local state university, Professor Buckett remarked early this year, at an event organized by local journalists, that “Zimbabweans are the most patient lot she has ever come across. That they are patient to queue for their own money.” The professor said in America people would not have tolerance even for much shorter waits.  One might argue that we come from different cultures but the level of acceptance that Zimbabweans have for the circumstances they survive under is just amazing.
 
Imagine people have to visit banks for close to a week to buy a bucket of the most basic of diets, mealie-meal which costs around $6000. You wonder how people are surviving. When there is commotion police are hired by officials at banks to maintain order. Zimbabweans are not riotous by nature.
 
“All sorts of explanations are given by bank officials on why they don’t have enough cash allocations. They say the central bank (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) is not giving them enough cash,  but at times we read in the papers, the central bank accusing banks of not coming forth to get money. You wonder who is telling the truth,” explained a bewildered Mrs. Moyo.
 
Despite the smiles by the signatories at the “historic” political settlement and the jubilation of Zimbabweans last Monday, efforts by the majority to put bread and butter on the table continue unabated barely a fortnight after the signatures.  To date a cabinet is yet to be put in place to steer the country ahead. Disagreements on how to share government ministries among the political parties are stalling the process. During the inter-party talks period between July and September, President Mugabe at one time threatened to appoint cabinet. Addressing journalists at the funeral of the late Zambian President, Levy Mwanawasa, early this month, Mugabe said… “We should form a cabinet. We will not allow a situation where we will not have cabinet…”
 
Now that there is a dispute on how to share the ministries,  the President seems to be in no hurry to solve the cabinet issue.
 
In an interview yesterday, MDC spokesperson, Nelson Chamisa said though his party hopes that “negotiators meet soon” to solve the cabinet issue, his party is for “equitable sharing and fairness in the distribution of ministries.”
 
“The problem is Zanu PF wants everything. I don’t mean metaphorically but literally. They want Finance, State security ministries, Agriculture, Local government, Justice, Higher Education and Information,” said Chamisa.
 
Chamisa added, “Politics aside, people are suffering and the leaders have to be sincere in forging cooperation and partnership” for the good of the nation.
 
Whether the political leaders are going to take heed of the nation’s hopes for an immediate settlement to their differences is yet to become reality in this Southern African country, which has been in an economic mess for close to a decade now.


Stephen Chadenga -- Bio and Archives |

Stephen Chandega is a journalist in Zimbabwe

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