The first Zimbabwean to die from novel coronavirus infection was Zororo Makamba, on March 23. He was a prominent young man who was recovering from a lung operation. He had contracted the virus in New York. Since then another Zimbabwean has died. Makamba’s family account of his last days demonstrates how totally unprepared Zimbabwe is for the pandemic. Zororo was sent to the Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital, but his family found that it had no ventilator, its oxygen supply ran out, it had no running water.
The people of Zimbabwe begin 2020 with a huge food shortage due to prolonged drought and the ongoing impact of the seizure of commercial farms from 20 years ago. Water shortages are hurting many communities. Inflation has turned public service workers into beggars. The international community, including China, is standing back from any rescue package because the integrity of government is still uncertain, despite the replacement of the dictator Mugabe with a genuinely elected government.
2019 is ending in Zimbabwe with huge frustration at the lack of progress for the people, with both Prof Jonathon Moyo of G40 and VP Chiwenga engaged in high stakes public drama.
Electricity failures in South Africa itself have now made the blackouts in Zimbabwe even more prolonged. The doctors remain on strike. The battle between unions and the government over public sector wages is unresolved. The UN is now providing food aid for 4.1 million people.
Following the abject failure of the October 25 Anti-Sanctions Day, it is crystal clear that neither the people of Zimbabwe nor the international community can swallow the claims that “Western Sanctions” are the reason for the ongoing collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy and society.
There was a relatively strong attendance of ordinary Zimbabweans at the public viewing of deceased former President Robert Mugabe, but far fewer at the formal ceremony attended by African leaders. In death the dictator continues to cause havoc, with a serious conflict over his rites and final burial between the family and the clan, and between the family and the Mnangagwa government. His widow, Grace Mugabe, is reportedly asking for the transfer of titles to several mansions from ZANU-PF to the family.
The economic collapse in Zimbabwe continues to deepen, with the government suspending publication of inflation figures until next February, and a prediction of at least a 3 per cent contraction in the economy overall – a recession. Electricity, water, cash, fuel and food are in short supply. Government moves to import more electricity, to pay public servants on time, and to resolve economic bottlenecks are just not enough to move the economy forward.
The Mnangagwa government continues to talk up its economic strategy, while the reality of power failures, fuel shortages, job losses and high inflation continues to hurt the community. The MDC and the trade union movement (ZCTU) are planning a new round of mass protests in response, in mid-August. In turn, government ministers have threatened military force to “crush” the protests. MDC refuses to accept the July 2018 national election result, and will not enter a dialogue with the government over a pathway to national recovery.
In the days prior to the July 30 national elections in Zimbabwe, former Senator and Special Minister of State Mrs Sekai Holland made a six-minute video message.
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Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 lockdown has been extended for two weeks until May 3. At the time of writing there are 28 confirmed cases, and four deaths, due to the virus. But given the acute shortage of testing, the inability of large numbers of Zimbabweans to physically isolate and to practice hygiene rules, the hunger that will be pervasive during the lockdown, and the lack of personal protective equipment for health workers and lack of ventilators and other hospital facilities, the impact from the virus is bound to greatly increase.