By Perseverance Javangwe
Early morning before sunrise, Handirevi Dzapasi enters her kitchen to start preparing her meal. It will be her only food for the day, but she will have it hours later, when she returns to her electricity-lacking home after a day spent hawking goods on the streets of Gokwe center during the coronavirus lockdown.
Dzapasi is a 64-year-old widow lacking a steady job. It is just one of many Zimbabweans struggling to cope with a scorching drought and economic instability that have pushed millions to the brink of famine.
“I only eat what I can get. Sometimes I eat pumpkins from the market and if I get money to buy mealie-meal. I eat sadza but just once a day to save some for tomorrow,” Dzapasi said.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of its worst economic crisis in 10 years, with inflation soaring above 300 percent and the population suffering, power rationing and currency woes. Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Robert Mugabe after a military intervention forced the longtime president to resign, has struggled to revive the economy while the long-standing financial troubles have been worsened by extreme weather shocks.
Now Zimbabwe is facing major food insecurity as many people do not have enough food to eat while some cannot afford it. Hilal Elver, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to food, was quoted as having said, “the country is on the verge of “man-made starvation”, with close to 60 percent of its 14-million population being food insecure.”
Some analysts suggested economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union against officials and entities linked with the ruling ZANU-PF party over alleged abuses are contributing to Zimbabwe’s current malaise. The government in Harare also says sanctions are impeding economic growth and “hurting ordinary Zimbabweans” – but the US embassy refutes the claim.
“The government of Zimbabwe’s failed economic policies, not sanctions, hinder Zimbabwe’s economic growth,” the embassy’s press office once said in a statement.
Prices of maize meal keep rising each day. A 10kg bag is going for US$6.00 while a 2litres of cooking oil cost US$2.50.
For Dzapasi, her monthly state grant of her late husband’s benefits is inadequate to meet her living needs. With the price of mealie-meal plus cooking oil beyond her reach, she opts to plant maize hoping that she will be able to yield a harvest in March that could help her to survive a further six months.
“I still can’t afford to buy mealie-meal and cooking oil at the same time; today, the government is doing nothing to control the prices which keep ballooning daily and we are affected tremendously,” said Dzapasi, a sometimes seasonal farmer. “So I prefer to plant crops and hope I will be able to harvest but now the rains have become to much that I fear my crops will be marooned,” she said.
Since taking over from Mugabe via a coup in 2017 Mnangagwa has promised to revive the ailing economy and it remains to be seen if he will able to do just that as the situation continues to worsen. Prices of goods are sky rocketing during the lockdown and many have described the prices as ‘covid-19 prices’.
In an effort to combat escalating prices, the government has launched the National Bakeries Programme, a series of community initiatives around the country where entrepreneurs use wood-fired ovens to make a cheaper version of bread, but these according to some sections do not benefit the the whole community.
Dzapasi is patiently waiting for her crops do well so that she can get enough to sustain herself because she has lost hope with the current government.