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Prices of basic commodities rising drastically | Coastweek

HARARE (Xinhua) -- Motorists queue to refuel their vehicles at gas station while a customer chooses items at a supermarket in Harare, Zimbabwe. The prices of basic commodities in Zimbabwe have been rising drastically in the recent weeks after minister of finance and economic development Mthuli Ncube acknowledged that there was no real parity between the U.S. dollar and the local bond note.  XINHUA PHOTO: SHAUN JUSA

Shortages of fuel and basic commodities
mar Zimbabwe festive spirit     

By Tichaona Chifamba HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Shortages of some basic commodities have marred the festive season in Zimbabwe, with many unable to get traditionally expected items such as soft drinks, beer and bread in the shops.

Many shops were rationing the items wherever they were available, and a black market for fuel has begun to thrive.

To beat the rationing, many people are bringing along colleagues to stand in different queues so that they can get as much of their preferred commodities as possible.

At Marimba shops, a man was seen getting into a shop several times to buy beer, which was limited to a pack of six per customer.

“The trick is to get back into the shop and use a different till operator who does not know that you have already bought the same commodity in the same shop. As long as the queues remain short I will go in as many times as I can,” he told Xinhua.

Some shoppers are now bringing along their children to beat the rationing so that each child can get an allotted share of the goods.

Many people have also opted not to travel to rural areas for the festive season because of fuel shortages.

With long queues at many filling stations, some motorists have decided not to risk travelling long distances without the guarantee that they will be able to fill up their vehicles on the way back.

“I can’t spend the whole festive season in fuel queues and there is no way I will travel to the village in Masvingo when I don’t know whether I will be able to get fuel for the return journey,” said John Hungwe of Harare.

It appears that many will have to part with the tradition of traveling to rural areas to spend time with parents and other loved ones during the festive season.

“Yesterday I... sent my parents some money and the little goodies I could get them for Christmas,” Hungwe said. “This year it’s very different, with people struggling to either get enough money or, if the money is available, to get the required goods.”

The government said it had instituted random checks on fuel stations across the country to curb hoarding.

The Herald newspaper, in its editions Monday,  quoted Energy and Power Development Minister Joram Gumbo as saying that police and Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority officials have been deployed across the country and that traders and stations found withholding fuel or selling it on the black market risk losing their licences.

Gumbo said the government has learned that some service stations were withholding fuel and selling it on the black market and to pirate taxis.

“We are suspecting that some of the fuel shortages might be political,” he said. “What we have noticed is that pirate taxis and public transport operators are also hoarding and stocking fuel.

“The spike in demand could have also been triggered by the festive season,” he said.

Petrol, which costs an average 1.40 U.S. dollars per liter at filling stations, is being sold at 30 dollars per five liters on the black market. 



Striking Zimbabwe junior doctors defy court order, stay away from work

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Striking junior doctors in Zimbabwe on Monday continued to defy a court order Saturday declaring their three-week industrial action illegal.

One source at the country’s biggest referral center, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, told Xinhua that the situation remained dire as the doctors refused to report for work.

Labor Court judge Betty Chidziva ruled in favour of the Health Services Board (HSB) which had sought to have the strike declared illegal and said that doctors offer essential service, which bars them from engaging in collective job action.

The HSB on Sunday warned the doctors that they would face disciplinary action for failing to take heed of the court order upon the expiry of the deadline of 9 a.m. Sunday given to them to return to work.

On their part, the doctors have accused the HSB of acting in bad faith for taking the issue to the Labor Court in the middle of negotiations after the cabinet last week assigned Vice President Constantino Chiwenga to oversee the process.

The doctors went on strike on Dec. 1, citing challenges such as unsatisfactory working conditions, low salaries and lack of basic medicines and equipment.

The Herald reported on Monday that HSB vice chairperson Auxilia Chideme-Munodawafa had said all the striking health workers had chosen to ignore the court order, causing the HSB to institute disciplinary action against them.

“Most or all of the health workers who had withdrawn their labor have not reported for work in the timeframe stipulated in the disposal order made by the Labor Court,” she said.

“Government is accordingly proceeding to institute disciplinary action against all health workers who participated in the unlawful collective job action,” she said.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA) responded by accusing the HSB of acting in bad faith after they were given an impression by the Ministry of Health and Child Care that negotiations were being finalized.

The association said it had hoped that, following a cabinet decision on Wednesday that Chiwenga would now provide oversight on the negotiations, the strike action should have ended by Sunday.

The “HSB has negated and reversed all the progress thus made to terminate the industrial action,” read a ZHDA statement.


Zimbabwean president urges nation to persevere

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Monday that 2018 was a historic year for the country as it marked the start of a process of national renewal and recovery.

In his Christmas message to the nation, the president acknowledged that many will have a difficult Christmas due to economic difficulties but urged the nation to remain resilient and hopeful for a better future.

“There is so much more to be done and there will be further bumps along the road. I am aware that many will have a difficult Christmas. I encourage all of us to be patient, resilient and to work hard in a collective unity, as we create a better, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe for all,” he said.

The president also appreciated the role played by volunteers in helping the needy and less privileged in society.

“I would like to encourage all our brothers and sisters who volunteer their time and energies to help those in need and less fortunate than ourselves. This spirit of volunteerism is a true blessing and should be celebrated by us all.

“As we celebrate Christmas, let us remember to ‘Love our neighbor as ourselves’ and to ‘do to others what we want them to do to us,’” he said.


Villagers in panic as 5.5-magnitude quake hits Zimbabwe-Mozambique border

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- A 5.5-magnitude earthquake rattled eastern Zimbabwe and neighboring Mozambique on Saturday morning, leaving villagers in panic.

According to China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC), the earthquake occurred at 07:37 local time (GMT+2).

The epicenter was near the border of Zimbabwe with Mozambique, 200 km from capital Harare, or 50 km from Zimbabwe’s southeastern town of Chipinge, Manicaland Province.

With tremors felt as far as Mutare, Masvingo and Harare, the earthquake has left villagers scared and in panic as less strong rural buildings were destroyed, state media Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) reported.

The tremors affected at least 40 homesteads, destroying less strong buildings and granaries, and leaving cracks on some houses in the Beacon area of Chipinge, which is less than 2 km from the border with Mozambique, a witness told ZBC.

Meteorological Service Department of Zimbabwe spokesperson Rich Zinyemba said they are still investigating the effects of the earthquake.

Manicaland Province is a seismically active region as evidenced by many moderate to large earthquakes occurring every year.

Zinyemba said most earthquakes that occur in the region are due to natural plate tectonics and this is attributed to the East African rift system which extends to Mozambique.



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