Little to celebrate for Zimbabwe workers on Workers’ Day

May Day commemorations came just over a week after the price of bread almost doubled in Zimbabwe.

FILE: Solomon Chakauya, waits for customers in his grocery store, in Chinamhora district north-east of Zimbabwe's capital Harare on 10 December 2018.  Picture: AFP.

HARARE - Unions in Zimbabwe marked May Day bemoaning worsening economic woes plaguing the country including price hikes and massive joblessness which have left workers with little to celebrate.

“This year is another bleak year with absolutely nothing to celebrate for the common worker and the common citizen,” Japhet Moyo, secretary of the country’s main trade union Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) told AFP.

May Day commemorations came just over a week after the price of bread almost doubled in Zimbabwe as runaway inflation which marked the rule of long-time authoritarian leader Robert Mugabe returns to haunt his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“The challenge that we have right now is that we don’t have a stable currency,” said a worker in Harare who only gave his first name as Hilary.

“So, you get paid today after three or four days, the money is worthless, you can’t really buy anything that is meaningful.

“Prices are increasing every day,” he said as the official inflation rate stood at 67% in March although in reality prices of many basics have more than trebled in recent months.

Raymond Majongwe, leader of the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, told a rally in Harare the ruling elite was leading lavish lifestyles while most people wallow in poverty.

“Our national economy, conditions of service and living standards for workers are sadly in the intensive care unit at the moment,” Majongwe said.

Mnangagwa pledged to revive his country’s moribund economy and turn Zimbabwe into a middle-income economy when Mugabe was toppled in 2017 after 37 years in power.

But after the central bank unveiled a new monetary policy in February, introducing a new local currency, prices of goods and services sky-rocketed.

The crisis has brought back memories of a decade ago when hyperinflation peaked at grotesque 500 billion percent, wiping out the Zimbabwean dollar.

Formerly a regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe’s economy has been in a dire state for more than a decade, with unemployment soaring to more than 90%.

Public anger over the economy contributed to the military intervention in November 2017 that finally brought down Mugabe, then 93.

In January of this year, Mnangagwa imposed a more than 100% fuel price hike - purportedly to ease the shortages - but that sparked countrywide demonstrations that left at least 17 people died when soldiers opened fire on the protesters.