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Zimbabwe ‘worsens’ after fall of Mugabe

Harare, Sunday

Some Zimbabweans dared to hope that the fall of long-time authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe, a year ago would finally bring change after years of economic decline, corruption and repression.

But the last 12 months have been tough, with few signs of Zimbabwe emerging into a new era.

Consumer prices last month rocketed at their fastest pace since hyperinflation a decade ago, with annual inflation hitting 20.9 percent, and many Zimbabweans saying the real rate is far higher.

Cash remains scarce, with depositors forced to line up outside banks to get limited withdrawals of “bond notes”. Shortages of everyday essentials such as bread, chicken, cooking oil, and petrol have worsened since Mugabe’s fall, as the country runs out of foreign currency to buy imported goods.

Long queues outside petrol stations and empty shops have become regular sights, while medicine supplies have also become scarcer and far more expensive.

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party easily won the July election. The party’s leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Mugabe, won the presidential race with just over 50 per cent—narrowly avoiding a second-round run-off against Nelson Chamisa of the main opposition MDC.

Zimbabwe must clear its arrears before it can raise more loans needed to re-build the country. But continuing targeted US sanctions, which remain in place due to lack of reform, could block fresh loans.

Mnangagwa had pledged to revive the economy, attract foreign investment, and create jobs. But the dire financial problems of the Mugabe era haunt the new reality.

“We are still waiting for investors to come, for jobs to be created, and for prices to come down,” said economist John Robertson.

ZANU-PF defends Mnangagwa’s first-year record. “The economy is showing signs of growth with many foreign businesses interested in investing. We have had hordes of foreign tourists. Those are clear signs that things have changed,” party spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo insisted.   -AFP

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