Prices soar, blackouts increase

HARARE - Zimbabwe's state electricity company is intensifying national blackouts amid a deepening economic crisis.

The price of bread increased by 100 percent to Z$4 million for a loaf this week and petrol stations were running dry.

Bottle store prices of a pint of beer rose to $5 million. With no hard currency to buy imports, Zimbabwe’s economy is facing paralysis.

Most factories are working a three-day week, investment has all but disappeared, and the unemployment rate is around 85 percent.

The crisis has intensified the discontent in Harare’s townships and is the principal reason for the unpopularity of President Mugabe and the rise of the opposition MDC. The greatest threat to the president’s grip on power would come from a spontaneous eruption of popular anger caused by the mounting hardships or a protest vote in the March 29 general election.

More than 45 percent of Zimbabwe’s electricity is imported, mainly from South Africa, which has been reducing supplies because of a shortage in the neighbouring country and failure by Zimbabwe to timeously pay for supplies. Mazambique has over the past few weeks switched Zimbabwe on and off over late payment, plunging the whole country into darkness and catalyzing public anger against Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) government.

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