Zim sliding back into chaos?

Recent political, economic and social trends could signal a reversal of the gains Zimbabwe has made since the unity government began in 2009, observers say.

Reeling from the consequences of a decade of economic mismanagement and political instability, the nation was rescued from total collapse when the two MDCs agreed to “share” power with Zanu (PF).

The new government, tasked to revive the economy and end the long standing political crisis, achieved relative peace, a revival of industry and the partial restoration of social services that had collapsed under Zanu (PF).

Runaway inflation was immediately arrested by the introduction of the US dollar and other currencies as legal tender, while basic goods became available, giving hope of a sustained transition.

But three years down the line, fears of a backslide are emerging. Political analyst Blessing Vava said the lack of teamwork in government was one of the major reasons for lack of progress.

“The parties have different agendas – not necessarily to improve the socio-economic situation but rather to outwit each other. There is no cohesion, and they contradict one other in public as if they do not sit in the same cabinet,” he said

“This government is an octopus with many centres of power. We cannot expect anything serious to be done by these guys.”

Zanu (PF) and the two MDCs continue to differ on various fundamental issues – the latest being the constitution making process. Recently the MDC-T deputy spokesperson, Thabitha Khumalo,accused Zanu(PF) of an escalation of violence in the rural areas amid talk of an impending election.

She said the constant arbitrary arrests of MDC-T activists and the harassment of ordinary people by state security agents showed that the political situation was reeling back to the 2008 scenario when more than 400 people died in political violence.The party says it will continue to insist on security reforms before any election can be held.

Although the most recent figures show that headline consumer inflation declined by 0.3 % to 4% – one of the lowest in Southern Africa, observers note that inflationary pressure, largely due to anticipated increases in food prices, could drive it up again.

The recent fuel price increase has already pushed prices up. For the third time this year, fuel prices went up last week, this time by over 5 cents. Petrol now costs between $1.48 and $1.65 per litre depending on location, while diesel costs between $1.32 and $1.45 per litre.

Commuter fares for a local trip now costs $1.00, up from 50 cents. Although bread prices have remained static at $1.00 per standard loaf, prices of other basic goods continue to rise.

Service delivery is also on the decline. “Water is fast becoming a scarce commodity here; we have no supply for the better part of the day. If it is for electricity, we only have power late at night,” said Sheila Makutsa, a Highfield resident.

According to the latest load shedding schedule, domestic users can endure up to nine hours a day with no power.

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