Inflation shock? Not for cynical Zimbabweans
Simon Kamunhukamwe just shrugged when Zimbabwe’s official inflation figure topped 26 000%.
Exploding prices have become a part of life and protesting against the economic meltdown can be risky, especially as President Robert Mugabe digs in for elections next month.
The figure may shock the outside world; Simon thinks the truth may be even worse.
“Of course that is not true, inflation is higher than that,” said Kamunhukamwe, who scratches out a living scavenging for used paper to sell.
Announcing the rise in a monetary policy statement on Thursday, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono said the economy had also contracted by 6% in 2007.
That kind of news would worry most presidents, especially ahead of general elections. But analysts said veteran leader Mugabe seemed firmly entrenched after what the opposition says are ruthless security crackdowns.
The government dismisses all charges of heavy-handedness and political commentators doubt the divided opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will be able to capitalise on economic woes to win support from a population focused on daily survival.
“Normally people take political risks against their government but in Zimbabwe we have a risk-taking government and a risk-averse population,” said leading political analyst Eldred Masunungure.
“I doubt the MDC has the capacity at the moment to turn people’s anger into votes.”
Zimbabweans struggle with cuts in electricity and water, burst sewers, crumbling infrastructure, shortages of fuel, food and foreign currency and high unemployment.
One of the only certainties in life is spiralling prices.
Since the start of the year rent and prices of basic goods like bread, milk and cooking oil have more than doubled.
The local currency has plunged against the United States dollar on a thriving black market from Z$2,7-million at the beginning of January to Z$6-million on Friday. It is officially pegged at Z$30 000.
“It is almost unimaginable and inconceivable to expect a change in economic fortunes of this country under the stewardship of the Mugabe regime. People are suffering and it is the MDC that can end that,” MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said.
He said the MDC would decide on the weekend whether to take part in the March 29 elections after earlier threatening to boycott over the Mugabe government’s refusal to adopt an agreed draft constitution before the polls.
With a divided opposition, Mugabe has room to consolidate power. Economic troubles may be the biggest threat to him, analysts say, even though he blames them on Western sanctions.
Gono promised a comprehensive 24-month recovery programme after the elections but many Zimbabweans are sceptical.
“Why should we wait until after the elections for the economy to recover? We are suffering and nothing will change,” said newspaper vendor and mother of two, Vimbai Kafesu.
Zimbabweans were reminded how little say they have over their futures when Gono delivered the grim news of galloping inflation with: “In God’s hands I commit this monetary policy.”—Reuters