It’s hard to believe how far Zimbabwe has fallen since former President Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military-backed coup.
Power cuts now leave citizens without electricity from dawn to long after dusk. Gas is too expensive so families cook on firewood. Bread is unaffordable. Drought has caused failed harvests. And rising inflation has eaten up pensions, leaving the elderly unable to retire with dignity.
Outside Harare, the humanitarian need is greater. The United Nations says more than five million people – almost a third of the population and almost entirely in rural areas – will be in need of food aid. “This year we have more hungry Zimbabweans than ever before,” said Eddie Rowie, the World Food Program’s country director.
Obert Masaraure, the leader of a union that represents rural teachers, said his 30,000 members had been reduced to “paupers”.
“The learners are walking to school on empty stomachs. They are collapsing in class because they are so weak. The teachers can’t pay for their own children’s education. But people are looting millions,” he said.
It is more than a year and a half since Robert Mugabe was removed in a military takeover, and a year since his former right-hand man, Emmerson Mnangagwa, took power after a contested election. Mugabe, 95, has been receiving medical treatment in Singapore since April, an official statement revealed last week.
Most in Zimbabwe hoped that the transition would lead to a change in fortunes for a country once deemed self-sufficient in maize and a major exporter of beef.
Mnangagwa promised democratic reform, a wave of new investment and the prospect of better relations with foreign powers. At rallies, the 77-year-old Zanu-PF loyalist spoke of his country being “open for business” and promised good days ahead.
But exports hit the skids and a terrible drought ended food self-sufficiency. In this week’s NewsDay Zimbabwe, an editorial relayed the author’s emotions. “Some of us feel sad that 39 years after independence – and as we honor this week thousands of our fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives so that the indigenous people regain control of their land – the country is failing each year to feed itself.
“Our gallant brothers and sisters who shed their blood for this land must be turning in their graves – this is definitely not what they hoped for; that we should be going about with begging bowls for food alms in a land of plenty.”
Meanwhile, on the occasion of Heroes Day, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said demonstrations would soon begin against the ruling Zanu PF to protest the failing economic situation in the country.
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