Anxiety grips nation as shops run out of food stocks- F e a t u r e (12-07-07)

A deep feeling of ambivalence is prevalent in the offices, on the streets and in the suburbs of
Zimbabwe's cities and towns.

There is what on the surface appears like a lot of excitement and anxiety. Everyone waits with
trepidation for news about which retail out

let has unearthed a stock of sugar or brand of shoes selling at the reduced prices in order to quickly rush there.

Long queues, chaos and the fight at supermarkets as well as other outlets have become characteristic all over the place.

“We are happy that government has reduced prices and at least we are affording to buy some of the basic requirements,” Rosemary Berejena gleefully said to CAJ News after spending close to three hours in a queue at an OK Supermarket in the city centre where sugar was selling.

“However, we are not sure about tomorrow because it appears shelves are fast getting empty and there is no replacement taking place,” she adds.

“You never know, maybe government will address the issues, all we can do is keeping hoping for better times.”

Indeed, all attention is fixed at the beleaguered government of President Robert Mugabe, whose “war” against prices hikes is reaching a level that could culminate into total collapse.

Observers have said the ongoing blitz could prove to be the final nail into the coffin of the regime.

More than 100 business owners and managers in the manufacturing, wholesale and retail industries have been arrested since last week, but that is a less significant face of the latest strategy by the regime!

Estimates put at close to 50%, the number of jobs lost over the past week in the affected sectors. Given the fact that the prevailing economic situation has already forced the closure of many businesses, unemployment levels-previously at 80% – have significantly increased.

“The majority of workers at the company have either been retrenched or sent to forced unpaid leave since last week,” a senior official from National Foods Limited, a manufacturer of food commodities said.

The same situation of workers being laid off exists in the retail industry.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) has warned of serious shortages of commodities starting end of this week due to the failure to restock by retailers, who are also finding closed gates at the wholesalers.

Government came up with yet another conspiracy theory recently and charged that there is a plot involving local business people working with foreign interests in effecting regime change through “unjustified” price increases in order to turn the electorate against the regime.

In scenes reminiscent of the bloody land seizures of 2000, the ruling party unleashed militia to combine forces with state security agents to launch the onslaught against retailers and wholesalers.

A visit to supermarkets in Harare this week showed signs of uncertainty that is gradually creeping into the market as shops shelves are drastically reducing to emptiness.

“We are not getting any new stock currently because there aren’t any at the wholesales,” a manager at a shop said.

“We are not sure what will be happening next week but management has warned that they are
considering closing the supermarket.”

As has been the case in the country since five years ago, the parallel markets of all goods and commodities are proliferating and thriving.

There, prices are double compared to what the supermarkets are being accused by government as having “unjustifiably” charged.

The effects on the country’s industry, which before the current mayhem has already been operating at below 25% capacity, are also immense.

“Industry has been seriously affected and although we are yet to come up with real statistics, we are aware of many closures and downsizing,” Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president, Callisto Jokonya said.

It really never rains but pours for the country’s industries as the paralyzing price war comes at a time they have been grappling with serious viability problems caused by lack of inputs, power and water shortages as well as the consistent devaluing of the Zimbabwe dollar.

“We are actually correcting things,” Industry and International Trade minister, Obert Mpofu reckons.

“Government will make sure that commodities are available to the people and we are aware of the plans to cause chaos by those pushing for regime change.”

Mpofu, who is also the chairman of the Taskforce implementing the price war, added that “there are enough funds to ensure that are commodities for all the people”.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change however believes government is rather condemning the nation to serious suffering.

“This is a well-calculated plan to cause serious suffering on the people by a regime now seriously
clueless about solving the mess it created,” the MDC spokesman, Nelson Chamisa said- CAJ News.

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