Beyond crisis point

The Movement for Democratic Change’s policy co-coordinator general, businessman and former farmer Eddie Cross of Bulawayo, has chronicled Zimbabwe’s decline online since 2001. Here is his first-hand account of the havoc wrought by price controls.
Issue date 24 August 2007

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We are now into our fifth week of price controls and the resultant shortages. I’m becoming increasingly alarmed at the situation and hope my misgivings are misplaced. Appalling shortages T oday there’s no rice in urban areas. There’s very little bread, and what’s available is rationed. no maize meal, cooking oil or margarine, no meat and very little milk and dairy products. I called the Dairibord today and they had nothing to sell. They said they were having problems with their milk supplies. Public transport is virtually at a standstill, following heavy fines imposed last week on the minivan taxis providing 90% of urban transport here. People are being forced to walk everywhere. Wholesalers and manufacturers are virtually out of stock. There’s a thriving parallel market for everything but even here supplies are very short. Maize meal is sold at Z0 000 to Z0 000 for 10kg – four times the official price. Fuel is available, but at prices ranging from Z0 000 to Z0 000 a litre. H otels are running out of food. stayed in a local hotel on Friday and found the staff serving a basic meal of rice with stew and a bit of cabbage as a salad. The queue stretched out onto the road – the manager told me he was not running a hotel but a feeding station.

The manager of the hotel over the road was eating there and said he couldn’t even provide his clients with the basics. A local business contracted to supply the prison said they had 4 000 prisoners they couldn’t feed from any source. army and the police are in a similar predicament, although the police have used their role in price control to loot businesses. hear soldiers went through the main police camp in Bulawayo looking for looted stocks. Running out of solutions N othing is being imported commercially, because the price control authorities enforce the same prices for imported and local goods. That leaves cross-border shopping as the only means of meeting family needs. Wealthy people are travelling to Botswana and Zambia for shopping trips and poorer families are calling their relatives in South Africa for help. On Saturday there were hundreds of vehicles at the border – all trying to get up to their families in Zimbabwe, drop off supplies and head back. The road was littered with broken-down vehicles, as many were old and overloaded. see no signs of any response to this basic food supply crisis. What do the international community think they’re doing? hear the UN threatened to close down and leave when the government tried to stop retailers selling fuel against coupons purchased with foreign exchange.

The government backed down. heard this morning that many embassies are considering flying food in for their local staff – great to have options, but what on earth do they think ordinary Zimbabweans are doing? I’ll tell you what they’re thinking – “How do get a passport, get to the border or get a ticket to anywhere where sanity prevails?” Driven from their own country he effort to remove up to 3 million Zimbabweans from their country by simply denying them the means to survive is well underway. estimate 500 000 have already gone to South Africa. Counting other destinations, we’re probably up to 600 000 – 20% down, 80% to go.

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That’s only 12 000 a day across Limpopo – an easy target. o amount of border patrols, policing or forced expulsions will stop the exodus. The only way to do that is to give Zimbabweans some hope that they have a future, any sort of future, in the country of their birth. As write, SADC leaders are about to gather in Lusaka [on 14 August]. The future of this country and this region are in their hands.must say that doesn’t give me confidence. If they fail us again as they have in the past, we may well have to take things into our own hands, and that could be very nasty. President Mugabe is in Malaysia at a five-star hotel. He couldn’t give a damn. His short-term strategy is playing out and he sees no possibility of regional leaders frustrating his efforts. At this rate he’ll get what he wants by the end of the year, hold farcical elections in March without opposition and continue as before. For more articles visit |fw