Anger as Mnangagwa raises gas prices in Zimbabwe
After years of international isolation, Zimbabwe’s economy has been in decline for more than a decade with cash shortages, high unemployment and a recent scarcity of basic staples like bread and cooking oil.
Mnangagwa, who took over from longtime leader Robert Mugabe and won a disputed election last July, also announced a package of measures to help state workers after strikes by doctors and teachers over poor pay.
“I am not a politician and neither am I an economist but you don’t need a rocket scientist to tell you that we are now headed for the worst following the fuel price madness,” said William Masuku, 32, a car dealer in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city.
Victor Nyoni, head of a local business body, said the fuel prices would push up the cost of other goods. Businesses are likely to pass on the higher transport costs to the consumer.
The president’s announcement came after fuel shortages which began in October last year worsened in recent weeks with motorists sometimes spending nights in fuel pump queues that stretch for kilometres.
Evan Mawarire, a cleric and activist who led the 2016 anti-government protests that shut down major cities, said: “You have cornered us and you leave us no choice. It’s time to mobilise every person who truly loves Zimbabwe.”
“Those in government may not admit it but they know in their hearts that they have failed,” said Edmore Phiri, a tired-looking motorist who had just spent a second night in a petrol queue in Avondale suburb.
The government claims fuel prices were lower than in other regional countries, saying some foreigners were taking advantage and buying fuel in bulk for resale elsewhere.
Mnangagwa said the new measures were aimed at curbing a burgeoning speculative parallel market in which fuel was being sold at five times the official price.
“It’s going to reduce demand for fuel because it’s now a bit expensive and that will deal with speculative demand if it was there,” said economist Godfrey Mugano.
Mnangagwa also warned the government would deal harshly with those “bent on taking advantage of the current fuel shortages to cause and sponsor unrest and instability in the country”.
Government doctors went on a 40-day strike in early December, demanding salaries in US dollars and improved working conditions, while teachers’ unions called a strike this week for better pay but their calls went largely unheeded.