The school drop-out rate has shot up because parents have no money to pay school fees. Teachers are demoralised, seriously underpaid and enduring bad conditions of service, particularly in rural teachers.
Healthcare is another sector that is in the intensive care unit, plagued by a shortage of basic and critical drugs in most public hospitals. The few functional private hospitals are out of reach in terms of cost to most poor Zimbabweans.
“The public health sector has become a death sentence for most patients. Poor people are forced to pay as much as $20 (R288) in a country with shocking levels of unemployment,” a junior doctor who declined to be named said.
Some analysts even go as far as saying there is literally no economy to talk about in Zimbabwe where unemployment is projected at 80%. Even those few still gainfully employment are literally under paid as they earn far below the official poverty datum line which stands at about $500.
Sadly, the little relief of having shops full owing to the attraction of the US dollar is at risk of coming to an abrupt end too, after the dreaded Zimbabwe bond notes were introduced yesterday.
The mere pronouncements about the introduction of bond notes has caused massive cash shortages and withdrawals from the local banks. The arrival of the local bank notes, known as “bond notes” sparked widespread public condemnation and fears of hyperinflation witnessed from 2007-09 that culminated in the 100 trillion dollar banknote that barely bought a loaf of bread.
Pastor Evan Mawarire’s successful #ThisFlag campaign is still fresh in the minds of the long-suffering Zimbabweans who joined him in large numbers to demonstrate against corruption and demanding accountability.
The rattled Mugabe regime detained the man known for his “enough is enough” slogan on July 12 for “inciting public violence,” before amending the count to a much more serious charge of treason. Large crowds held a vigil outside court forcing the release of Mawarire as public pressure mounted.
Mawarire, though in exile now, has become a symbol of hope for Zimbabweans.
But the main opposition party MDC-T says the introduction of bond notes alone cannot lead to the demise of Mugabe but can be used as a rallying point.
MDC chairperson and former parliament speaker Lovemore Moyo said: “This eventuality presents enormous political opportunity for the opposition political parties and civil society to win the next harmonised general elections.”
But the opposition appears still too fragmented to pose any serious threat to Mugabe despite many attempts at unifying them under one banner to take on the octogenarian leader’s well documented repressive tactics.
“Mugabe’s long stay in office has no relationship with the performance of the economy or any progressive policies but has everything to do with politics of food, poverty, intimidation, instilling fear, electoral fraud and manipulation of voters,” Moyo said.
Moyo said bond notes will take the country back to years of hyperinflation where there was a shortage of basic food commodities. Increased prices of goods and services will be experienced.
In short, the black market will slowly replace the formal market.
“Whether the opposition can capitalise on this ammunition is another matter,” he said.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Okay Machisa recently told The Zimbabwean newspaper that civil society must use this window of opportunity to force a new dawn for Zimbabwe.
A new dawn may be beckoning but sceptics believe that Mugabe will only be replaced by a leader from his own party. The problem is Zanu-PF is embroiled in an ugly succession battle as the aging leader shows signs of being defeated by nature.
The Zanu-PF Generation 40, or G40 for short are a group of Zanu-PF members battling to stem the ascendency of vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Lacoste Faction succeeding the only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980.
It is not clear exactly who leads G40 but speculation is rife that it has thrown its weight behind Grace Mugabe.
The group is characterised by younger Zanu-PF members who are savvy and educated but seem to have met their match in the cunning Mnangagwa, nicknamed The Crocodile. The Croc has the support of the influential army and former freedom fighters.
With no clear frontrunner, Grace Mugabe’s prophecy that her husband could rule from the grave may ring true for Zimbabwe. It may sound irrational but nothing makes sense when it comes to the way Mugabe has managed to keep a tight grip on Zimbabwe for nearly four decades, even with a failing economy and health.
Phathisani Moyo is a news editor at TNA