Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on the opening day of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, SA, September 4 2019. Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on the opening day of the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, SA, September 4 2019. Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS.

Harare — In his Christmas day message Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa admitted that people in his country are suffering. Most Zimbabweans spent the holiday enduring shortages of cash, electricity and fuel.

The southern Africa country is in the grips of its worst economic crisis in a decade with the second highest inflation in the world. Close to half of its 14-million people face hunger after a ravaging drought.

The International Monetary Fund has said Zimbabwe’s economy will contract by 6.5% in 2019, its worst decline since 2008.

This is the worst holiday season since Mnangagwa wrested power from Robert Mugabe in November 2017. Prices of basic goods are beyond the reach of many while workers salaries have been eroded by inflation.

On Christmas Day residential suburbs in the capital Harare were without electricity for hours, while many motorists spent much of the day in fuel queues, dampening the festive mood. Doctors who have been on strike demanding higher wages, continued with the industrial action.

Some people who spoke to Business Day in Harare said they had failed to travel to their rural homes — as is the norm during holidays in the country — because of high costs of public transport.

Many Zimbabweans now say they were better off under Mugabe as Mnangagwa’s administration has been accused of mismanaging the economy and failing to clampdown on rampant corruption.

In a Christmas message to Zimbabweans, Mnangagwa said he understood people’s hardships.

“I know that many of you still suffer. I am not blind to your situation, nor am I deaf to your cries.

“I commit to you that we will continue to reform with an eye on the long term; for we must not reform only for ourselves, but for our children and our children’s children.”

Mnangagwa said his government was undertaking “deep, broad, and meaningful reforms” and has achieved some positives such as balancing the budget.

However critics accuse Mnangagwa of paying lip service to reforms as his administration continues to brutalise any opponents of government, in the same manner as Mugabe.

In January this year, at least 17 people were killed in a military crackdown on protests over a fuel hike.

Those who voice concern over government’s policies are frequently assaulted, detained or abducted by state security agents.

The leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change  Nelson Chamisa said Zimbabweans had suffered one of their worst Christmas holidays in living memory because Mnangagwa was not committed to the wellbeing of ordinary people.

He said “instead of dispensing love at Christmas, Mnangagwa was dispensing agony to his people”.

“The people are suffering because we have deprived them of happiness and merrymaking. They are without cash, without fuel, without electricity, without water and even without freedom,” Chamisa said.