BY CHRIS MURONZI
In December inflation in Zimbabwe peaked at 280 percent, one of the highest rates globally. The Zimbabwean dollar also weakened, trading at 930 to the US dollar on the parallel market – a steep decline after two months of relative stability at 700 to $1.
This led to plummeting living standards in the Southern African country where 7.9 million people, amounting to half of the population, fell into extreme poverty between 2011 to 2022.
Ahead of the crunch 2023 presidential elections, proposed currency reforms by the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration have already been put on hold.Unsurprisingly economists, political scientists and multilateral institutions are sounding the alarm that the trend of declining economic fundamentals could continue till next year.
During a recent visit to the country, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a further fall in the gross domestic product (GDP) by 3.5 percent in the coming year due to among other things, “renewed domestic and external shocks (inflation surge, erratic rainfall, electricity shortages, and Russia’s war in Ukraine) … adversely affecting economic and social conditions.”
“These multiple shocks will continue to weigh on Zimbabwe’s growth prospects,” the IMF said in December.Odds stacked against economy
Analysts say years of economic mismanagement under Zimbabwe’s first leader, Robert Mugabe and later under his predecessor Emmerson Mnangagwa, have stymied the economy, further exacerbated by hyperinflation and the currency devaluing rapidly.
For Gift Mugano, a visiting professor of economics at the University of Zimbabwe Business School, the country’s 2023 economic outlook is gloomy.
“The year 2023 will be very dire, driven by spill-over effects of difficulties we encountered in 2022,” he told Al Jazeera.
ture, the local currency is expected to continuously weaken against leading currencies this festive season and into the next year.
In November, inflation stood at 255 percent, one of the highest in the world. But Mugano predicts that inflation and exchange rate could more than double by the second quarter of 2023.
Furthermore, there are fears that while the central bank continues to dictate the exchange rate, there is no hope for convertibility determined by free market conditions.
bility through the liberalisation of the foreign exchange market, ensuring the central bank does not print money through quasi-fiscal operations, maintain tight monetary policy stance and wind down the use of gold coins.
But economists doubt authorities will heed the advice.
“Zimbabwe is entering a very volatile social and economic period which needs level political minded leaders to handle this with care but I don’t see [the authorities] having that capacity to think straight in terms of management of the affairs of Zimbabwe,” Mugano said.
The war in Ukraine and high inflation have also affected the agriculture sector. In Zimbabwe which relies on fertiliser imports from Ukraine, prices shot up from $28 to approximately $55 per 50-kilogramme (11-pound) bag, pushing bread, an everyday staple above the reach of many residents.
There is also the matter of power cuts nationwide occasioned by reduced electricity generation at its hydroelectric power plant, Kariba Power Station, owing to low dam water levels.
As a result, industries and households have been bearing the brunt of rolling power outages that last for as much as 20 hours on a daily basis.Authorities hope refurbishment work at its Hwange Thermal Power Plant will add 300 megawatts to the national grid by the end of the first quarter of 2023.
Zimbabwe, which has traditionally relied on power imports from South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia, is now in a quandary because the region is also grappling with an enormous power deficit.
Politics and policies
A lot also hinges on the looming general elections.Mnangagwa, who has been president since November 2017, is expected to put a bid in for a second term but is facing stiff opposition.
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa rallied the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) to win 19 out of the 28 seats in the parliamentary by-elections. Even though the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) still holds a parliamentary majority, analysts said CCC’s showing might be a foretaste of how it might perform in the 2023 presidential election.
In February, 37 opposition supporters were arrested at a rally and there have been other incidents of violence against dissidents in recent months.
Independent political analyst, is almost certain of heightened political instability in the months leading to the polls and after.
Given the high political stakes of the coming election, Mnangagwa seems set to pull all the stops to retain the presidency, he said.
“I think 2023 spells political doom for Zimbabwe as there is a high likelihood of politically motivated violence in by-elections but likely to intensify towards the local council, parliamentary and presidential polls,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I think ZANU-PF will attempt as much as possible to stop any campaigns by the opposition be it in urban and rural areas using the security structures and also party militias,” Mukundu added. “This is a zero-sum political game and election for Mnangagwa that he wants to win at any cost.”
The Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe, a grouping of more than 80 non-governmental organisations in the country, has gone as far as to warn that the coming election could become the bloodiest in Zimbabwe’s history.
“In fact, as we edge towards 2023, we think it (political violence) is going to [get much worse],” Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe’s Chairman Peter Mutasa said.
Analysts say Chamisa and the opposition will be hoping that the electorate can vote to show sufficient disappointment with the levity that the government has treated them.
And there is historical precedent to give them hope.
In the 2008 election, Mugabe lost to the late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai when a historic hyperinflation of more than 1,000 percent wrecked the economy.
As it was then, the economy is again in freefall. If the Mnangagwa administration wins, Mugano warns, it could use economic policies at will to bend the situation to ZANU-PF’s advantage.
“If Zanu wins the poll, for instance, they will continue with their command economics and will continue on that path of runaway inflation,” he said-AL JAZEERA
Victoria Falls based lawfirm donates football kits to Division Two teams
BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
A Victoria Falls based law firm has donated football kits to twelve Division Two soccer players in Hwange West district in an effort to fight drugs and substance abuse among youths in the communities.
According to the law firm’s director Thulani Nkala, of Dube Nkala & Company Legal Practitioners, the donation aims to promote a healthy society where teenagers can engage in sports even after school.
Division Two falls under the Zimbabwe Football Association and it comes after Division One which is also below the premier league.
“As you are all aware that drugs are causing problems in our town, we felt that we can make a difference to counter this by donating some football kits and other equipment for our youths to use as they play,” Nkala said.
“We hope that this will be an ongoing partnership, but for now we will only be sponsoring for this upcoming season which is about to start and we shall renew as the next seasons approach on condition that we have mutual understanding which is based on respect because we will not want a situation where teams fight each one another.”
He said apart from the kits and trophy, the teams will play for a prize money at the end of the season.
Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) Matabeleland North provincial acting chairman Clevious Ncube said the gesture will go a long way in nurturing young talents in the Division Two league, whom most of them are school going children and teenagers.
Prosper Neshavi, provincial ZIFA board member, lamented lack of interest in football sponsorship even at national level.
He said this has been part of the reasons why the country has been kicked out of the Federation Internationale Football Association (FIFA).
FIFA President Giovanni Infantino last year said the association had to suspend Zimbabwe and Kenya for government interference in the activities of the football associations.
“They know what needs to be done for them to be readmitted or for the suspension to be lifted. “Infantino said last year.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to introduce sports tourism in Victoria Falls, tourism operators and other sports officials have joined hands to form a committee that will spearhead the allocation of land by the Victoria Falls City Council for sporting activities such as the football, tennis, boxing and rugby among other sporting disciples.
This was revealed by the committee chairperson Mthabisi Ncube who lamented lack of sporting facilities in the city.
He revealed that through their negotiations with the council, a certain portion of land has been set aside for the project.
Their end goal is to see the town hosting local and international teams, which will inturn boost the country’s tourism GDP.
“As we say that we are the tourism capital of Zimbabwe and possibly the better capital of Africa and we fail to have a 10 000 seater stadium,” he said.
“We can not fail to host training matches such as the rugby, football where teams such as the Kaizer Chiefs Football Club can decide to come to Victoria Falls as they prepare ahead of the season, so their coming will help us a lot because all the businesses from accomodation to the salons and vegetable vendors will benefit from their presence, but it cannot happen when we do not have the facilities.
“Our vision is to have a complex where we can host international games, international meetings for cricket, rugby, tennis. We want to be like what Capetown (South Africa) does where they have no free weekend in arts and sporting activities.”
Gaseous coal substances exposes Hwange residents to TB
BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
In the scorching sun, Litha Ncube and her nine-year-old daughter are armed with hoes and shovels as they make way to a dumpsite to scavenge for a precious by-product of coal, coke.
The poverty-stricken widow from Hwange’s Madumabisa Village says she has no option but to scrounge for the product in a life-threatening environment that has claimed the lives of many. This is her only means of survival.
As she digs the dumpsite without any Personal Protective Clothing (PPE) such as the surgical mask, her daughter’s task is to pick and separate the coke from the chaff and fill a 50-kilogramme sack. This quantity of coke fetches US$5, which she says helps to sustain her family.
Her husband died at the height of Covid-19 pandemic in 2021 after he was diagnosed with Tubercolosis (TB) which he contracted due to inhaling of coal dust at the same dumpsite.
Ncube was also diagnosed and it took her over 12 months to fully recover.
“If I stop, who will support my children?” Ncube quizzes as she continues to dig.
Ncube is among the many women in Hwange who have resorted to trespassing into the Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) dumpsite in search of coke, which they resell to make ends meet.
TB is one of the leading causes of death in Zimbabwe.
According to Community Working Group on Health, about 6 300 Zimbabweans die of TB each year despite it being preventable and curable.
The African region has the second-highest tuberculosis burden worldwide, after Southeast Asia. under the World Health Organisation End Tuberculosis Strategy, countries should aim to reduce TB cases by 80% and cut deaths by 90% by 2030 compared with 2015.
According to National Mine Workers Union of Zimbabwe president Kurebwa Javangwe Nomboka, gaseous substances from coal dusts have left many Hwange villagers and residents exposed to TB, although many are not documented.
‘The prevalence of TB is very high, but undocumented in the areas we have done programs which are around the mining community of Hwange,” Nomboka told VicFallsLive.
“Coal is the commonly mined mineral in the area and is well known for its combustible nature and the emission of dangerous poisonous gases.”
Nomboka says apart from residents such as Ncube, the scourge is higher in the mining companies, largely Chinese owned.
He says the mostly affected are underground miners and even those involved in the processing of coal to coking coke.
” Examples of areas with a high risk of TB which my team have visited are HC, Hwange Coal Gasification and South Mining,” he revealed.
“The environment in these mines is heavily embroidered or engulfed with coal dust and gaseous substances which causes a high risk of TB and other related diseases like Pneumoconiosis.”
These heavy dusts and gaseous substances, Nomboka says are also evident in the residential areas and thus posing a risk to the families of miners.
” At Hwange Coal Gasification at times the whole complex is engulfed with gaseous substances to an extent that you won’t even be in a position to see buildings or people around you,”
“Besides the dust and gaseous substances there is immense heat that comes out from the furnaces and the personnel working such under environments are spotted with improper and inadequate PPEs and the issue in these mines has become of lesser priority as it is only acquired when we raise a red flag as a union.”
Nomboka said the PPEs being acquired does not meet the standard required under the Mining industry safety regulations leaving workers vulnerable to contracting TB and other related diseases.
” As a trade union we have reigned in on these defaulting companies to comply with the mining safety regulations and those found not to be in compliance with the regulations have had to be litigated against in order for them to comply,” Nomboka revealed.
“The country needs to adopt stern measures on those who fail to comply with mining safety regulations by enacting laws which provide for hefty fines for companies who fail to provide safety nets for their employees and proper and adequate protective clothing.”
Engage communities in TB planning, Government urged
BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI
The Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) has called on the government to engage communities in planning and implementing of strong, integrated Tubercolosis (TB) mitigation as part of response measure, amid revelations that over 6 000 Zimbabweans succumb to the pulmonary disease every year.
The call was made by CWGH, a health watch organisation executive director Itai Rusike ahead of the World TB Day commemorations.
Rusike said although there has been some efforts made towards ending TB, a killer disease and highlighting further action that is needed to defeat the life-threatening disease, communities should be part of the action.
“TB remains a major obstacle to attaining the SDG vision of health, development, and prosperity for all in Zimbabwe,”Rusike told VicFallsLive.
“Our country has an estimated 21 000 new cases of TB each year, and 3.1% of these are drug resistant.
” 6300 Zimbabweans die of TB each year despite it being preventable and curable.”
According to health activists, most of these are recorded in mining towns and communities where there is no adequate Personal Protective Equipment.
Rusike also called for more scientific research and funding towards eradication of pulmonary disease including the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Funding for research on TB in Zimbabwe is minimal, and new tools to prevent, diagnose, and treat TB are urgently required,” he said.
“There is an opportunity to leverage Covid-19 infrastructure and investments to improve the TB response, integrate TB and Covid-19 testing and tracing, and strengthen efforts to overcome the barriers that people continue to face when accessing TB services.”
According to studies, the advent of Covid-19, three years ago eliminated 12 years of progress in the Global Fight against TB as governments, due to its response to the pandemic pushed aside TB outreach and services, resulting in a 20% drop in diagnosis and treatment worldwide.
“This World TB Day 2023 (March 24) we emphasize that “Yes! We can end TB” – aims to inspire hope and encourage high-level leadership, increased investments, faster uptake of new World Health Organisation recommendations, adoption of innovation, accelerated action and multisectoral collaboration to combat the TB epidemic,”Rusike said.
“It is time for the government to fulfill its commitments towards defeating TB.
“The government should engage communities in planning and implementing strong, integrated TB and Covid-19 mitigation and response measures.”
In addition, he said, there is need to increase financing for TB prevention and care, innovations in care delivery, and research and development, including for new TB vaccines to prevent the development of Drug Resistant TB.
” The theme brings attention to tuberculosis (TB) and our collective power to end TB by 2030 and therefore reach the SDG goals,” he added.
“It brings hope and builds on the amazing work done in 2022 by Zimbabwe as one of the TB High Burden Countries to recover from the impact of Covid -19 while ensuring access to TB treatment and prevention.
” It is time to take urgent action to get back on track and accelerate collective efforts to fulfill the 2022 United Nations targets on TB to defeat the disease and save lives.
“The commitments made, and targets set by Heads of State and other leaders to accelerate action to end TB must be kept even in Covid-19 crisis and should be backed by adequate investments (and) this will help to protect the lives of thousands of peoplesuffering from TB and to prevent further loss of gains made in the fight against TB.
” Not one more person should die from TB because it is a preventable and treatable disease.”
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