Zimbabwe Central Bank Hikes Interest Rate To 200%, Highest In The world

A man shows a wad of the new Zimbabwe two-dollar notes he received from a bank in Harare on November 12, 2019. Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP
A man shows a wad of the new Zimbabwe two-dollar notes he received from a bank in Harare on November 12, 2019. Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP

 

Zimbabwe’s central bank on Monday more than doubled its key interest rate to a whopping 200 percent, the highest in the world as the southern African country battles hyperinflation.

Annual inflation more than doubled in two months to reach 191 percent in June, stoking fears of a return to 2008 hyperinflation period where savings were wiped out.

The bank’s governing committee announced in a statement the whooping interest rate increase after expressing “great concern” on the recent gallop in inflation.

READ ALSO: Health Workers, Teachers Strike In Zimbabwe

“The committee noted that the increase in inflation was undermining consumer demand and confidence and that, if not controlled, it would reverse the significant economic gains achieved over the past two years,” bank governor John Mangudya said.

The benchmark interest rate was last raised to 80 percent in April from a previous 60 percent.

Central banks around the world have been raising rates to fight inflation as energy and food prices have soared in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and supply chain disruptions.

Zimbabwe is in the throes of an economic decline.

The value of the local currency has also suffered major headwinds, losing more than two thirds of its value this year alone to become one of the continent’s worst performing currencies, according to Bloomberg.

Rising prices revive grim memories of hyperinflation that was so bad in 2008 that the central bank issued a Z$100-trillion note, which has now become a collectors’ item.

The government then ditched the local currency and adopted the US dollar and the South African rand as legal tender.

But in 2019 the government reintroduced the Zimbabwean dollar, which has rapidly been declining in value.

The currency has been used parallel to the greenback.

Health Workers, Teachers Strike In Zimbabwe

 

Doctors, nurses and teachers across Zimbabwe went on strike Monday, as the country’s latest financial crisis has left their salaries almost worthless.

Nurses earn 18,000 Zimbabwe dollars per month, which is now worth only about US$55 at the official exchange rate.

Teachers do slightly better, at about $75 a month.

“The reality is that health workers are underpaid. The workers are struggling to make ends meet,” said Tapiwanashe Kusotera, leader of the health workers’ union.

Health workers protested outside the offices of the Health Services Board, located in one of the country’s biggest hospitals, waving placards and singing.

Riot police were stationed within the facility, as patients lay unattended in corridors and outside the hospital.

“Our health services board, which is our employer, and the Ministry of Health have totally refused to talk to the health workers,” said Zimbabwe Nurses Association head, Enock Dongo.

The government last week said it would double the salaries of all civil servants, but Dongo said no formal offer had been made.

“You don’t need to be told that the salary that you are receiving is not enough,” said Dongo. “It is now clear that the members want to totally withdraw their labour.”

Teachers on Monday also called a five-day strike, according to a statement from the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe.

“We cannot continue to be an embarrassment in our community as a result of the poverty that the government believes should remain as part of our working lives,” the statement said.

Patients in Zimbabwe’s public hospitals already have to buy their own supplies to bring to the long-neglected wards.

“The hospital had even ordered us to buy gloves, bandages and paracetamol for my sister but now the nurses have gone,” said one patient’s relative, who requested anonymity.

Runaway inflation in Zimbabwe topped 131 percent in May, reviving memories of hyperinflation seen more than a decade ago. Prices ran so out of control that the central bank in 2008 had issued 100-trillion-dollar note, which has now become a collectors’ item.

The government then ditched the local currency and adopted the US dollar and the South African rand as legal tender.

But in 2019 the government reintroduced the Zimbabwean dollar, which is already rapidly declining in value.

Zimbabwe Healthcare Bleeds Amid Mass Nurse Exodus

Map of Zimbabwe

 

Virginia Mutsamwira says she treats four times the number of patients she should ideally handle at a township clinic in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.

“It’s tiring — the nurse-patient ratio is really bad,” she says, throwing herself onto a brown sofa at her house in Cold Comfort township after a 12-hour shift.

“It’s frustrating, because you can’t offer quality care.”

The 52-year-old senior nurse is skilled, experienced and educated. Yet her monthly salary of some $200 (192 euros) barely covers her basics.

To make ends meet for her family of eight, she runs a small grocery shop out of her home, where she also rears chickens and rabbits for sale.

After work, before she even takes off her blue uniform, she feeds the chickens.

She is joining the exodus of healthcare workers emigrating from Zimbabwe — in her case, “to secure my retirement.”

Official figures show that last year alone Zimbabwe lost nearly 1,800 nurses, mainly to Britain. That’s more than 10 percent of all the nurses working in public hospitals.

Mutsamwira has already done her International English Language Test, required to get a visa to the United Kingdom, where salaries are around 10 times higher than in Zimbabwe.

The outflow of nursing staff is stripping the country of desperately-needed skills.

“We are always overwhelmed because many nurses are leaving,” says Josephine Marare, 33, who works at one of the country’s largest public hospitals, Sally Mugabe Central Hospital.

Under-equipped facilities only worsen morale. “Imagine working in a hospital where there are no bandages, no water, no basic drugs like painkillers,” she says.

“I am just so frustrated. If I get money to get a visa, I will join the others who are leaving.”

The migration has spurred demand for passports, with people queueing up before dawn to apply for travel documents in Harare.

– ‘Won a lottery’ –

Zimbabwe’s healthcare facilities have been crumbling for more than a decade, tracking the downward spiral of the economy.

“The main driving factor is poor remuneration,” said Simbarashe Tafirenyika, president of the Zimbabwe Urban and Rural Council Nurses Workers Union, explaining the nurses’ exodus.

“They need to pay school fees, put food on the table. If anyone gets an opportunity, they are going.”

It’s so desperate that many highly qualified nurses opt for junior roles abroad because these pay better.

The Health Service Board, which grades and appoints government health workers, admits the mass exodus of nurses has had an effect.

Under a programme aimed at filling staffing gaps, retired nurses are being re-hired while training is being expanded.

“Losing experienced workers is always a challenge,” spokesman Livingstone Mashange said.

The board’s website opens with a picture of smiling nurses leaping joyfully and a bold “we are hiring” message.

Like other rich countries, Britain has a long tradition of recruiting staff from developing countries to meet the needs of its health service.

But shortages in the UK have shot up, driven by the Covid-19 pandemic and a dramatic drop in nurses recruited from eastern Europe as a result of Brexit.

According a report last June by the Health Foundation think-tank, Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) faced a shortfall of 93,000 staff. Some 42 percent of them were nurses.

Jason Mutambara, a 45-year-old Zimbabwean father of four, migrated to Britain last year.

He says he has no regrets — his monthly income rocketed to £2,700 ($3,375), enabling him to easily afford his children’s school fees.

“It was like you’ve just won a lottery,” he said. “You can’t even think of coming back at the moment.”

Mutambara’s hope is that the Zimbabwean authorities fix the health system to stop the haemorrhage of skills.

“We were trained in Zimbabwe and we owe it to the people of Zimbabwe to continue working for them,” he said. But for now, it appears Britain will be hiring for years to come.

60 Zimbabweans Killed By Elephants This Year

Map of Zimbabwe.

 

Sixty Zimbabweans have been killed by elephants so far this year, as a conservation success story has led to increased conflict with humans, the government spokesman said Tuesday.

With 100,000 elephants, Zimbabwe has the world’s second-largest population after Botswana, and about one-quarter of the elephants in all of Africa.

Unlike in much of the world, where poachers have killed off the animals for their tusks, Zimbabwe’s elephant population is growing at about five percent a year.

“In some areas, elephants are moving in numerous herds and have devoured everything in the fields and are now moving into homesteads, forcing community members to retaliate, in the process injuring some of the elephants,” government spokesman Nick Mangwana said on Twitter.

“The injured ones have become aggressive and uncontrollable,” Mangwana said.

“The issue of human and wildlife conflict has become quite emotive. This year alone 60 Zimbabweans have lost their lives to elephants and 50 injured,” he said.

Mangwana said elephants killed 72 people in 2021.

Elephants have been roaming outside of Zimbabwe’s sprawling game reserves.

But demographic growth as well as poverty are also forcing rural dwellers in Zimbabwe to move into areas that bring them into conflict with elephants.

Zimbabwe has a population of around 15 million which is growing at around 1.5 percent per year.

Tinashe Farawo, of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, told AFP warned of “disaster” unless elephant numbers were reduced.

“The threat is likely to increase as we move towards the dry season when the herds will be moving in search of water and food,” he said.

Farawo said rangers have been deployed to put down the most dangerous elephants.

Conservationists say that Zimbabwe can support about 45,000 elephants, which require vast grounds for grazing.

Trade in elephants is banned internationally, but the government has begun considering contraceptives or hunting licenses to manage the herd.

Zimbabwe Government Under Fire For Halting Bank Lending

Map of Zimbabwe.

 

A move by Zimbabwe to suspend lending by banks will backfire, create a parallel banking system and usurp efforts to fix the moribund economy, the country’s captains of commerce warned Monday.

Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday ordered banks to stop lending as part of a raft of measures he said were aimed at stabilising the economy.

Mnangagwa said the move would stop speculation against the Zimbabwe dollar and curb a burgeoning parallel market where the local dollar was trading at nearly 400 to the US dollar, more than double last week’s official rate.

“The government has suspended banking but banks remain intact,” the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

“This legitimises a parallel banking system with usurious interest rates and no investor would be attracted to such an economy where lending can be suspended overnight.”

The chamber said government had ignored advice from the business sector on how to revive the economy.

Zimbabwe’s economy has been on a downturn for over a decade.

A planned stay-at-home protest over worsening economic woes flopped on Monday as business went on as usual in the country’s main cities.

Following the government’s weekend announcement, the Zimbabwe dollar traded 40 percent weaker against the US dollar on Monday.

The Zimbabwe dollar on Monday traded at 275.79 against the US dollar compared to 165.99 on Friday, according rates on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe website.

Mnangagwa who took over from Robert Mugabe following a military-led coup vowed to revive the economy but troubles that plagued his predecessor’s reign remain.

Bankers were holding talks with the central bank on Monday.

The government’s “knee-jerk” decision “exposes inherent failures in the existing political economic systems,” said Shepard Ngandu, assistant secretary general of Zimbabwe Banking and Allied Workers Union.

“Lending is the primary manner in which banks should make money hence any disturbance will have negative ripple effects,” he said.

Zimbabwe Crash Kills 35 Ahead Of Easter Gathering – Police

 

At least 35 people died and 71 were injured in Zimbabwe when a bus carrying churchgoers to an Easter gathering veered off the road and landed in a gorge, police said Friday.

The bus was carrying members of a local Zion Christian Church who were travelling to an Easter meeting in the south-eastern town of Chipinge.

“I can confirm an accident which occurred last night. So far, the death toll is 35 and the number of injured is 71,” police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi told AFP.

“Indications suggest that the bus was overloaded,” he said. Buses in Zimbabwe typically have an average capacity of 60 to 75 passengers.

“As church people, they should lead by example but instead they were travelling at night which we always discourage,” Nyathi said.

Road accidents are common in Zimbabwe during public holidays when the roads are often busier. Many roads are pock-marked with crater-like potholes, which also contributes to accidents.

Zimbabwe Hikes Interest Rates To 80 Percent

A man shows a wad of the new Zimbabwe two-dollar notes he received from a bank in Harare on November 12, 2019. Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP
A man shows a wad of the new Zimbabwe two-dollar notes he received from a bank in Harare on November 12, 2019. Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP

 

Zimbabwe’s central bank has raised its benchmark interest rate to 80 percent in a bid to rein in inflation worsened by the war in Ukraine, it announced on Monday.

It marks a jump from the previous 60 percent set in October and is the world’s highest, after Venezuela and Argentina, according to various statistical sources.

According to Bloomberg, the rate is the country’s highest since September 2019 when the bank set it at 70 percent.

READ ALSO: Court Upholds 25-Year Sentence For ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero

Inflation in the economically-turbulent country in March ticked upward to 72.7 percent from 66.1 percent the previous month.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said it had “noted that global inflation was on the increase as a consequence of the on-going Russia-Ukraine conflict which had secondary pass-through effects on domestic and international prices”.

It said global rising prices of oil, gas and fertilisers had “inevitably had a negative impact on domestic costs of production and was destabilising the foreign exchange market”.

AFP

Zimbabwe Repossessing Unused Land From Black Farmers

 

 

Zimbabwe has begun repossessing idle land from black farmers who benefitted from controversial land reforms two decades ago, Agriculture Minister Anxious Masuka said Wednesday.

People whose farmland is lying unused and those who own multiple farms will lose land, he said.

The land will be given to aspiring farmers from a waiting list left from earlier rounds of land reform, he said.

“Zimbabwe has a finite geographic space,” Masuka said.

“We have allocated 99 percent of the land, and the land that I am currently allocating to those on the waiting list is land that I am taking from blacks, allocating to blacks.”

Government will not repossess productive farms, he added.

“We will leave a family with a farm,” Masuka said.

Speaking at the opening of annual tobacco auctions, Masuka said some repossessions had already occurred, but did not give details.

Former president Robert Mugabe launched land reforms in 2000, forcibly removing white farmers and giving their land to blacks.

The scheme was supposed to redress legacies of British colonialism but in practise, many of Mugabe’s close allies ended up with multiple farms.

But many new farmers had little knowledge, training or support, and vast swathes of land became derelict.

Once renowned as a breadbasket, Zimbabwe now suffers from chronic food shortages, while a quarter of a million farmers are on the waiting list for land.

Masuka’s deputy, Vangelis Haritatos, told AFP that government had also allowed former white commercial farmers to return to some farms through joint ventures.

“We don’t have a set criterion as government,” he said. “What we want is fairness for everyone.”

“We need to take our country to self-sufficiency, in food and nutrition,” Haritatos said.

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, some 10 million of Zimbabwe’s nearly 15 million people risk hunger by September after a poor rainy season.

The country has long depended on donors for basic food supplies.

Zimbabweans Vote In Crucial By-Elections

A woman cast a ballot during a by-election at a polling station on March 26, 2022 in Mbizo township, Kwekwe.  (Photo by Zinyange Auntony / AFP)

 

 

Zimbabweans cast ballots on Saturday in parliamentary and local authority by-elections seen as a yardstick of what is to come in next year’s general polls.

The polls, which opened at 7:00 am, have generated so much interest that President Emmerson Mnangangwa has led various campaign rallies to shore up support for ruling ZANU-PF candidates.

“We need change,” Jasen Maeka, a 42-year-old unemployed man said after voting at a polling station in central Harare.

“We should give the opposition a chance. This government has proved to be a failure,” Maeka said.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who is seen as the most formidable challenger to Mnangangwa, formed a new party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), three months before the by-elections.

 

 Zimbabweans cast ballots on Saturday in parliamentary and local authority by-elections seen as a yardstick of what is to come in next year’s general polls.  (Photo by Zinyange Auntony / AFP)

 

“We are going into a crucial by-election…it is a dry run of the 2023 election,” Chamisa told his final campaign rally in a working-class district on the outskirts of Harare on Thursday.

The new party drew massive crowds to its campaign rallies.

Chamisa’s party complained of growing repression by the authorities as several of its parties were banned by the police during the two-month long campaign.

Unrest at an opposition rally last month left one person dead and 22 injured.

During the campaign, the country’s vice president Constantino Chiwenga likened the opposition to lice which should be “crushed”.

ZANU-PF, which has led the country since independence from Britain in 1980, also attracted huge campaign crowds.

Critics accuse Mnangagwa, who took power in 2017 after Robert Mugabe ruled for 37 years, of muzzling dissidents and the opposition has voiced concern that election will not be credible.

 

The polls, which opened at 7:00 am, have generated so much interest that President Emmerson Mnangangwa has led various campaign rallies to shore up support for ruling ZANU-PF candidates. (Photo by Zinyange Auntony / AFP)

Voters are casting ballots in 28 parliamentary constituencies including 20 where opposition lawmakers were recalled in a battle over the control of the country’s largest opposition party.

The rest of the seats fell vacant following the deaths or reassignment of the incumbents.

By-elections were also being held in 122 local government municipalities.

The by-elections were supposed to be held within 90 days of the seats falling vacant but Mnangangwa delayed the polls in 2020 citing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sixteen parties were taking part in the elections.

A polling offical goes through a voters-roll during a by-election at a polling station on March 26, 2022 in Mbizo township, Kwekwe.  (Photo by Zinyange Auntony / AFP)

 

On the eve of the polls, Chamisa’s party alleged that the election was rigged before voting had taken place, citing errors in the voters register.

Polls close at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT).

FIFA Suspends Kenya And Zimbabwe

FIFA Bans Ex-Zambian Football Chief Bwalya Over Bribery Allegations
FIFA Logo

 

The Kenyan and Zimbabwean football federations were suspended by FIFA on Thursday due to government interference, the world governing body said.

“Without prejudice to investigations by national authorities or other judiciary bodies, the FIFA Council has decided to suspend the Kenya Football Federation and the Zimbabwe Football Federation with immediate effect for undue influence by a third party,” said a FIFA statement.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino later gave more details on the reasons for the suspensions, referring at a press conference to “government interference in the activities of the football federation”.

“They know what needs to be done for the suspension to be lifted,” he added.

The FIFA Council met briefly by videoconference on Thursday, without taking any major action on the project to reform the international calendar which could see a World Cup every two years, an idea promoted by FIFA but opposed by European and South American federations.

AFP

Malawi Revive Second Round Hopes With Zimbabwe Win


Malawi’s forward Gabadinho Mhango (C-L) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Group B Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Malawi and Zimbabwe at Stade de Kouekong in Bafoussam on January 14, 2022. Pius Utomi EKPEI / AFP

 

Frank Mhango scored twice as Malawi came from behind to defeat Zimbabwe 2-1 on Friday in the Africa Cup of Nations and keep alive their hopes of reaching the second round for the first time.

The forward from South African club Orlando Pirates netted in each half after Ishmael Wadi had put Zimbabwe ahead in a lively Group B match in Bafoussam.

Mhango recently returned to action after a lengthy injury layoff and became only the third player after Cameroonians Vincent Aboubakar (twice) and Karl Toko Ekambi to bag a brace so far in this Cup of Nations.

READ ALSO: [AFCON 2021] Morocco Beat Comoros To Reach Last 16

Guinea and Senegal share the Group B lead with four points each after two rounds of matches, Malawi have three and Zimbabwe are pointless.

Group winners and runners-up qualify automatically for the round of 16, along with the best four third-placed teams.

On Tuesday, Malawi face 2019 runners-up Senegal in Bafoussam while Guinea meet Zimbabwe in the Cameroonian capital, Yaounde.

After the presence of Liverpool duo Sadio Mane and Naby Keita in the first half of a double-header — a 0-0 draw between Senegal and Guinea — there were no instantly recognisable Malawi or Zimbabwe stars.

Malawi began with five local players, five based in South Africa and one in Mozambique while Zimbabwe had in forward Tino Kadewere from French club Lyon the only starter from a top-five European league.

After a slow start at the 20,000-capacity Stade Omnisport in the western Cameroon highlands, the game burst into life as half-time approached.

Zimbabwe went ahead on 38 minutes when an Onismor Bhasera cross allowed Wadi to score with a perfectly placed looping header that just eluded the outstretched hand of goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe.

The advantage lasted just five minutes, however, before another cross from the left flank, this time by Francisco Madinga, produced a goal with Mhango poking the ball into the net from close range.

Malawi, who lost injured captain and defender Limbikani Mzava just before the half-hour, left the field at half-time the happier team having survived several scares.

Gerald Takwara and Wadi wasted good close-range chances to break the deadlock in the latest episode of a southern Africa rivalry previously dominated by Zimbabwe.

Mhango struck again on 58 minutes to edge the Flames in front, taking advantage of defensive hesitancy by Teenage Hadebe to push the ball past goalkeeper Petros Mhari.

AFP

Zimbabwe’s Security Minister Fired For Misbehaviour

 

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday sacked his state security minister Owen Ncube for “inappropriate” behaviour, his office announced.

In a terse statement, Mnangagwa’s office said the president “removed (Ncube) with immediate effect for conduct inappropriate for a minister of government”.

No further details were given.

READ ALSO: Mali Military Junta Strongly Condemns ECOWAS Sanctions

Appointed minister in 2018, Ncube was widely seen as a close ally of the president.

In 2019 he was placed under US sanctions over the government’s crackdown on protests and the opposition.

Last year Britain slapped sanctions on him and three other Zimbabwean officials following the deaths of more than a dozen people protesting against Mnangagwa’s regime.

AFP