After a big surge in COVID-19 cases in January 2021, followed by more severe lockdowns, the rate of infection has slowed, but is very difficult to contain due to very limited testing, personal protective equipment and vaccines. Vaccination has only recently begun and is very limited in its reach, and may take two years or more to complete. Due to the pandemic over 174,000 migrant workers have returned, mainly from South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and Europe. Hence remittance income into the country is down.
When schools returned in mid-September, most teachers did not, shifting the focus of industrial strife from the health to the education sector. It underlines the galloping inflation impacting the wages of public servants and other workers, and the huge pressures for change in Zimbabwean society. However, the political opposition continues to disintegrate due to factional conflicts and, in the case of Nelson Chamisa’s MDC Alliance, its connections to the Mugabe G40 faction of ZANU-PF and its use of violence.
The Zimbabwe Nurses Union has called for a return to work after months of strikes over pay and workplace safety, after the appointment of Vice-President Chiwenga as Health Minister. Civil servants have been promised a pay adjustment every three months. However, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called for wages to be paid in US dollars and for lightening workplace lunchtime protests on September 1. Teacher unions are also determined to gain pay in US dollars.
Today is the second anniversary of the 2018 national election won by President Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF, and the day set for the Extraordinary Congress of MDC-T. It was chosen therefore for a big street protest, purportedly against corruption.
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.