Africa: But the well to do are a-okay.
|It is now ten weeks since President Mugabe forced businesses to slash prices of all goods and services in the belief that he could crush inflation, which he says is a plot by the Zimbabwean private sector, in collusion with Western governments, to overthrow him.|
Two things have happened: inflation has rocketed and, according to the Government, the country will run out of wheat in three days. Zimbabweans appear set to face an almost total absence of food and ordinary household goods. An eruption of public anger, to be met with violent suppression by Mr Mugabe’s security forces, is likely to follow, observers say.
Initially Mr Mugabe’s June 25 price blitz sparked a gleeful storming of shops, where managers looked on aghast as their businesses were stripped at the Government’s bidding.
Then household basics such as meat, chicken, cooking oil, milk, maizemeal, margarine, sugar and soap vanished into the black market. In the past couple of weeks it has become almost impossible to find beer, cigarettes, tea or baked beans in shops.
Outside the OK in Mbare rows of women stand behind little stools, each bearing a long bar of carbolic soap, packets of cigarettes or bottles of vegetable oil. “These are the policemen’s wives,” Rosa said.
They gain their name from the latest phase of Zimbabwe’s descent into hunger and chaos: thousands of vendors have been arrested and their goods seized in Mr Mugabe’s attempt to smash the black market. “The policemen grab the goods, they give them to their wives and then they come and sell here,” said Rosa (not her real name - nearly everyone is too afraid to be quoted in Mr Mugabe’s Zimbabwe).
The black market too is starting to dry up. “Now people are buying because they don’t know when they are going to see them again,” a supermarket chain executive said. The two main supermarket chains in Zimbabwe are each due to lay off 1,000 workers this month. The country’s main bakery closed one of its largest outlets yesterday because of lack of wheat – a shipment of 36,000 tonnes is being held in a Mozambique port because the Government cannot pay for it. “Manufacturers are going to run out of stock to produce with,” the executive said. “There is a very strong possibility that food will disappear completely.”