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Zim takes over foreign firms
July 27, 2007,,2-11-1662_2152740,00.html

Harare - Zimbabwe's embattled President Robert Mugabe opened a new session of parliament on Tuesday expected to push through radical plans to nationalise foreign firms ahead of a general election next year.

Mugabe, 83, was seeking re-election next year despite accusations that he had plunged the southern African state into its worst economic crisis through a raft of controversial policies. Zimbabwe had failed to release inflation figures for May and June prompting speculation that they were too shocking to reveal to the population.

Here are some details on what has happened in the last year since inflation figures first reached 1 000%.

The first 1 000%:
- Zimbabwe's annual inflation rose above 1 000% in April 2006, dramatising the severity of its economic crisis. Official statistics revealed the annual inflation rate at a record 1 042.9% after rising 913.6% in March.

- Zimbabwe, then in its eighth year of recession, had the fastest shrinking economy of a country outside a war zone, according to the World Bank, and the highest inflation rate in the world.

- Some shops began leaving prices off commodities, saving themselves the trouble of changing them every day. With a carton of orange juice then costing Z$500 000 ($5) and a kilo of beef up to a Z$1m, people carried their money in large bags even for simple shopping trips.

- The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) ordered redenominated notes in July 2006 to combat black marketeering and hyperinflation, lopping three zeros off the local dollar. The move effectively devalued the Zimbabwe dollar by 60% against its United States counterpart and fanned panic across the southern African country.

Violence breaks out:
- The breakdown of the economy heightened political tensions. Mugabe responded by cracking down on the opposition, drawing fresh international attention to his controversial rule. About 180 people were arrested in September after riot police quashed labour union protests. In March 2007, Morgan Tsvangirai, of leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was badly beaten after he attempted to attend a banned protest rally, spurring more international condemnation of Mugabe's government.

How bad it can get?
- Annualised inflation stood at 3 713.9% in April 2007, a monthly rate of increase of 100.7%, according to official government data, possibly the last government data to be released. Unofficial reports had put inflation for May at 4 500%. Zimbabwe's central bank on Tuesday said it was also indefinitely postponing a much awaited mid year monetary policy statement due next week.

- Zimbabwe imported 60 000 tons of wheat to ease bread shortages after millers ran out of the grain. The government said it did not meet its annual consumption requirements of between 400 000 and 450 000 tons of wheat.

- Mugabe's government recently rolled back prices of basic goods and services to June 18 levels after increases of up to 300% in one week piled more pressure on desperate consumers. Authorities had set up a police unit to arrest business people who defied the order and already more than 2 000 executives and companies had been arrested or fined, accused of overpricing.

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