HomePoliticsHungry Zimbabweans 'celebrate' freedom

Hungry Zimbabweans ‘celebrate’ freedom

ZIMBABWEANS marked 26 years of independence on Tuesday with little to celebrate as the African state plunges into deep economic hardship, personal tragedies and a rapidly widening gap between the elite rich and the majority poor.

President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party s

aid on Monday it was “disturbed” that young Zimbabweans in particular showed no pride in their nation’s Independence from colonial-era white rule after a bitter seven-year bush war in which at least 40 000 fighters died.

But Linda (22), an unemployed former office clerk, was not interested in the lavish celebrations throughout the country.
Linda, who wouldn’t give her last name for fear of reprisals, now hangs out in a seedy Harare bar, looking for customers.

She said she was aware of the dangers of prostitution in a nation where at least 3 000 people die of HIV/Aids-related illnesses each week.

“What can I do?” said Linda in a voice breaking with desperation and typical of the fear felt among many Zimbabweans at Mugabe’s clampdown on civil liberties. “I have to eat.”

Mercedes limousines were parked outside a posh restaurant and bar across town. Half a dozen of its patrons, drinking doubles, consumed within 90 minutes a bottle of the finest 12-year-old Scotch whisky for a total cost of about US$280, at least four times the monthly salary of the bartender and other average wage earners.

The vast and growing disparity between the poor and a rich elite of about 5% of the population is blamed largely on corruption, black-market profiteering, favouritism in official contracts and land deals and the peddling of political influence.

Unemployment exceeds 70% and inflation is the highest in the world at 913,6% on basic goods.

Scarcities and black marketeering have sharply eroded the spending power of the Zimbabwe currency in the past few years.

An estimated 3,5 million Zimbabweans, mainly skilled professionals, are living outside the country.

Disruptions in the agriculture-based economy after the often violent seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms since 2000 have led to acute shortages of food, fuel and medicines.

The weak Zimbabwe dollar, plummeting in the worst economic crisis since Independence, has hit health, education and other public services. Absenteeism from schools has soared in the wake of frequent fee increases. — AP.

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