Record inflation of 231 million pressures Zimbabwe parties

HARARE – Zimbabwe's annual inflation hit a record high of 231 million percent in July, piling pressure on the ruling party and opposition to break a deadlock in negotiations and form a cabinet that can rescue the economy.

President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party and the opposition MDC again held unsuccessful talks to end stalled power sharing negotiations on Wednesday, frustrating Zimbabweans who hoped new leadership would bring relief from hardship.

Many Zimbabweans have resorted to bartering goods and rely on help from relatives abroad, mostly South Africa, for supplies of scant basic foodstuffs like maize, sugar and cooking oil.

Central Statistical Office data showed that on a monthly basis, prices shot up by 2,600.2 percent compared to 839.3 percent in June, largely driven by high prices of bread and cereals. The yearly inflation figure was 11.2 million percent in June, official figures showed on Thursday.

An outline agreement signed on Sept. 15 has stalled over key cabinet posts, angering Zimbabweans who have had to endure the world’s fastest price rises, shortages of food, foreign currency and crumbling infrastructure. Both sides accuse each other of jeopardising the process.

Two MDC factions and ZANU-PF have been haggling since the outline deal was reached to end a political crisis that worsened after Mugabe’s unopposed re-election in a June vote boycotted by the MDC.

The main MDC faction, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, has called for urgent African intervention in the impasse.

Under the September deal, Mugabe, in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980, would retain the presidency and chair the cabinet, while Tsvangirai as prime minister would head a council of ministers supervising the cabinet.