Friday, February 23, 2007

No bread in Zim, but Mugabe eats cake


Zimbabwe’s economy is so dire that bread vanished from store shelves across the country on Wednesday after bakeries shut down, saying government price controls were requiring them to sell loaves at a loss. The price controls are supposed to shield consumers from the nation’s rampant inflation, which now averages nearly 1,600 percent annually.

In Harare, the capital, the police banned demonstrations and political gatherings in the city’s sprawling townships on Wednesday, citing the threat of looting and vandalism. Slum dwellers clashed with policemen on Sunday after the police blocked a court-approved rally by political opponents of Mr. Mugabe....

Emmanuel Fundira, the chairman of the fund-raising group, says that the theme of this year’s celebration will be “empowerment, prosperity and peace.” In Harare, however, some citizens were caustic in their assessment of the festivities.

“The guy is insensitive,” John Shiri, 41, a teacher at a primary school, told a local journalist. “There is no bread as we are talking, but he will be feasting and drinking with his family and hangers-on when there is no wheat in the country.”

Zimbabwe teachers earn a basic salary of 84,000 Zimbabwe dollars a month, plus limited allowances. The Central Statistical Office said last week that a family of five needed more than 566,000 Zimbabwe dollars, or about $123, to buy a month’s worth of basic commodities.

Tawanda Mujuru, who runs a vegetable stall on Samora Machel Avenue in downtown Harare, said that she would be working in a factory if not for the failure of Mr. Mugabe’s economic policies.

“He has the guts to eat and drink when we are suffering like this,” she said. “Let him enjoy. Every dog has his day. We shall have our day.”

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