“As we remember January… Everything remains the same”
January marked a year since the 2019 January national stay away violence that resulted in at least 17 people losing their lives. The violence that was meted out indiscriminately against citizens is an indication that citizens are not safe in their own country.
The triggers of the 14-16 January 2019 national stay away remain unresolved; a year later. The economy continued to deteriorate with prices of commodities, including fuel, increasing and remaining out of reach for many. Fuel prices were hiked from ZWL17.44/litre to ZWL18.28/litre for petrol and ZWL17.90/litre to ZWL19.55/litre for diesel in January. The consequence of fuel hikes is a spiral rise in prices of goods and services as business entities seek to cushion themselves. Shortages of mealie meal continued in January with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce putting together a Roller Meal ‘task force’ to ensure the transparent and equitable distribution of subsidised mealie meal. Even with a ‘task force’ the commodity is still unaffordable for most people as there seems to be crevices in the system that allow some individuals access to the commodity at the prescribed subsidised price, after which the price is increased two if not three fold.
The changes in the rainfall patterns and the persistent dry spells are exacerbating the situation as some crops had already suffered from heat stress; in the midst of a debilitating drought. Ironically, some parts of Zimbabwe such as Hwange, Gweru, Chegutu and Silobela experienced flash floods which decimated the few crops that had survived the heat. The mismanagement of drainage systems in urban areas has always posed a risk of flash floods; drains are usually clogged with refuse and when it rains there will be limited channels through which the rain can flow.
The collapsing economy did not spare school children and college students as tuition fees went up in leaps in the majority of schools and institutions of higher learning. In Bulawayo, students at Njube High School demonstrated after a 478% increase was effected to their school fees. They also raised concern about the low remuneration for teachers which was negatively impacting on their education.
ZPP recorded numerous cases of school children being turned away from school for non-payment of school fees.
Zimbabwe’s economic woes are going to persist compounded by the drought and foreign currency shortages. The economy continues to self -re-dollarise despite efforts by the government to encourage the use of the Zimbabwean dollar as the preferred currency of transaction. In his efforts to stabilise the economy, the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube indicated that government would introduce higher denominations of ZWL10, ZWL20 and ZWL50.
This, however, is likely to fuel inflation as has happened in the past.