Zim unemployment skyrockets

Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate has spiked to 94%, meaning that fewer than half a million people in the country are formally employed, the United Nations’s humanitarian arm said on Thursday.

”At close of 2008, only 6% of the population was formally employed, down from 30% in 2003,” said a report from the UN’s office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Out of the country’s 12 million people, only 480 000 have formal jobs, down from 3,6 million in 2003, the report said.

”The most obvious indicator of the current decline is the staggering inflation rate,” last estimated at 231 million percent in July, it said.

The new data was contained in an appeal by OCHA for 35 agencies working in the country, seeking $550-million to assist the 5,1 million Zimbabweans in need of food aid.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday that seven million Zimbabweans will need food aid in February and March to survive until the next harvest in April, this is a 35% increase from the previous estimate made last year, the WFP added.

Zimbabwe’s once-dynamic economy has shrunk by more than 45% over the past five years, leaving half of Zimbabwe’s urban population relying on remittances from friends and family overseas, the OCHA report said.

An estimated three million Zimbabweans have fled the country’s economic and political instability, and are now supporting their families with both cash and food.

”Importantly, in 2008 remittances from Zimbabweans in neighbouring countries — South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique — were in the form of food and essential household commodities, as well as cash,” the report said.

The economic collapse has also made it difficult for aid agencies to work in Zimbabwe, it added, citing high prices for supplies, troubles ensuring payment of salaries, spotty access to food for staff and fuel shortages.

Adding to Zimbabwe’s woes are consecutive years of drought and a land-reform programme launched in 2000, in which some mostly 4 000 white-owned commercial farms were seized and redistributed to blacks.

The scheme has punched a gapping hole in agricultural production, which once accounted for 40% of the economy, as most of the new beneficiaries lack both farming equipment and expertise.

Call for unity in MDC
Meanwhile on Wednesday Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai called for unity in his party, as the MDC prepares to decide on a power-sharing deal with Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe.

The MDC leadership plans to meet on Friday to decide whether to accept a regional proposal to form a unity government by mid-February, despite concerns about the balance of power under the deal.

”It’s an historic decision, and I hope that the party will be united in ensuring that we respond to the needs on the ground and people’s expectations,” he told reporters in Harare after returning from a regional summit in South Africa.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) told the rivals to install a unity government by February 13, but Tsvangirai has warned that the deal could be derailed by long-running disputes about the control of key ministries.

Negotiators are to meet in Harare to hammer out details of the agreement, before the MDC meets on Friday.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed a unity accord in September, but have remained deadlocked over control of the key Home Affairs Ministry, changes to the Constitution and MDC allegations that its members have been abducted. — Sapa-AFP, Reuters

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