First impressions can be deceptive. Gleaming buildings, glitzy shopping centres and busy streets usually indicate a healthy economy. But Harare is different, Zimbabwe is on the brink of failure.
Economic collapse engendered by President Mugabe’s disastrous policies has seen inflation explode. It is now a barely-believable 185,000 percent. One cigarette costs 300 million Zimbabwe dollars, a cup of coffee, one billion. The US dollar is worth more than ten billion of its Zimbabwean namesake’s, but the blackmarket figure is even higher. 80 percent of the people are out of work and many live below the poverty line. As for money, most Zimbabweans have none.
The situation is made for the black market except even here, like in the shops, the shelves are almost bare. There is nothing to sell. The paucity of goods has even reached essentials, like cooking oil, sugar and grain. Prices are shooting up.
“People with ordinary jobs might be earning 50 or 60,000 Zimbabwean dollars a month,” said economist John Robertson. “But the cost of supporting a family of five is now estimated to be 300,000 ZD a month.”
Mugabe’s land seizures brought ruin to Zimbabwe’s white-owned farms, whose efforts produced half the national income. Now production has all-but dried up, especially in tobacco, of which Zimbabwe was once the world’s leading exporter. South African political analyst Siphamandla Zondi said the fallout is spreading:
“It is often said that when Zimbabwe sneezes, the rest of the region catches a ‘flu, and we are catching a ‘flu. It is affecting South Africa in a very direct way, with the number of immigrants coming to South Africa.”
Many Zimbabweans see no future under Mugabe. In desperation, millions have fled abroad, to seek a new life somewhere else.