Zimbabwe is in crisis. Rampant inflation, soon to hit 400 percent a year, has debased the currency, wiped out the livelihoods of people on fixed pensions and cut almost everyone’s living standards.
Everything from sugar to petrol to vegetables is hard to find and expensive. Six boxes of matches cost 20,000 Zimbabwe dollars. If you change £40 you are given a wad of notes as thick as two bricks. Unemployment is estimated at 75 percent, with over 70 percent of the population living under the poverty line.
Only the rich and the clique around the regime, with their access to foreign currency sources, live well. Operation Murambatsvina, the government’s “Operation Restore Order” which swept people out of their shacks and tiny businesses, has left 700,000 people without homes or their livelihoods or both.
Near the Harare to Bulawayo main road Simbisdo Hadebe lives with her three children. They were cleared from another part of Harare in May and have lived since with only asbestos sheets and cardboard boxes for shelter.
“Mugabe attacks rich pepole abroad but he tortures the poor at home,” she says. Workers cannot afford to get a bus to work, so tens of thousands of them walk for ten kilometres or more.
The crisis is causing tension in the ruling party and the MDC opposition. It is divided over whether to contest the next set of elections, for the Senate, on 26 November.
The result may be a return to genuine mass action in the country, with Tuesday of next week set to see the beginning of a campign over political rights and collapsing living standards.