Zimbabweans despair as politicians battle it out

HARARE – Zimbabweans are losing faith in a power-sharing deal and fear their once-prosperous country will collapse without a breakthrough in deadlocked talks.

On Sept. 15, Zimbabweans witnessed the unthinkable — President Robert Mugabe signed the agreement with old foe MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai after decades of hostility.

Their handshake raised hopes that a new leadership would take on the challenge of easing the world’s highest inflation rate and severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages.

People like Rudo Kashangura, a 27-year-old bank manager and mother of two, struggle to scratch out a living in an economic meltdown. It’s a feat that requires both tenacity and ingenuity.

Kashangura sometimes sells, in foreign currency, fuel coupons received from her employer to cushion herself against an inflation rate now officially at 230 million percent.

"I just know we are on our own," Kashangura told Reuters. "We have no hope that these people will agree on anything. We are not counting on it."

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and Tsvangirai’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are locked in a dispute over control of key posts, with the interior ministry at the centre of the stalemate.

Arthur Mutambara, who leads an MDC breakaway faction which also signed the deal, is also seeking government positions.

 

FALSE HOPES

The pattern at the talks has become all too familiar for Zimbabweans, who could once boast after independence in 1980 that their country was one of Africa’s most promising.

High hopes. Frenzied accusations. Then an announcement that negotiations have not collapsed and will continue.

Zimbabweans say the politicians who have promised to rebuild the southern African country are oblivious to their hardships, blinded by a stubborn power struggle.

State hospitals have closed some of their wings as drugs shortages bite at a time when there are rising cases of cholera due to water shortages and crumbling sewage infrastructure.

The plight of teachers is another example of Zimbabwe’s economic decline. Thousands have left for better jobs in neighbouring countries and others have been reduced to hawking basic goods to survive. Universities have been shut since June.

Zimbabwe’s political leaders are expected to take part in an urgent regional summit likely to be held next week. But similar gatherings have only dashed hopes.

"There is too much mistrust and I don’t think it (summit) will help," Moses Kufa, an illegal diamond miner in the eastern border city of Mutare, said by telephone.

Kufa said he and his colleagues have to bribe the police to allow them to dig for the precious stones.

"I do not think that there is appreciation from the leaders of the suffering we are going through. Only God will deliver us from this madness because on our own we have failed," he said.