It used to be referred to as the “breadbasket of Africa”. Today, people in Zimbabwe have to queue up for bread – armed with stacks of bills, which are necessary for even the smallest purchase, as inflation runs out of control.
Stores no longer stock even the basics since the government ordered them to sell the goods at half their production cost. As far as the West is concerned, one man is responsible: president Robert Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
Mugabe, however, says the West is to blame, arguing that it has isolated his country on the global scene through crippling economic sanctions put in place following his controversial re-election in 2002.
Three months later, Mugabe embarked on his most controversial policy to date – reclaiming land from white farmers.
They were to cease all activity within 45 days and to leave the land within three months.
Many of the farms were occupied and destroyed.
Critics say a poorly managed land reform was partly to blame for bringing the country’s economy to its knees.
Now, Zimbabwe’s government has just tabled a proposal in parliament to give majority control of foreign-owned firms to black Zimbabweans.
Thirty-five companies would be affected.
A bill is also being debated which would give Mugabe room to pick a successor if he retires, potentially further strengthening his grip on power.
Meanwhile, in a bid to curb Zimbabwe’s spiralling inflation, the highest in the world, new bank notes are being introduced.
But it seems they can’t be printed fast enough to keep up with an inflation which was estimated at more than 7,500 percent last month.
With any kind of demonstration brutally suppressed by Mugabe’s secret police and a refusal by fellow African nations to interfere, change any time soon seems an unlikely prospect for Zimbabweans.