Johannesburg – Several shops in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare have put up “closure signs” on their doors as the cash crunch deepens, signalling a worsening of the economic crisis epitomised by the return of fuel shortages last seen eight years ago.
On Tuesday, clothing store Edgars, eatery Teta, fast food outlets KFC and St Elmos Zimbabwe, as well as Corky’s Pub and Grill, all warned customers they were shutting up shop.
In the midlands city of Gweru, Truworths and Topics have shut their doors with no indication they will open any time soon.
Some said the measure was temporary, while others said they needed to close their businesses to do deep cleaning and others cited renovation as the reason they were closing “until further notice”.
Zimbabwe is an economic bind, compounded by a lack of foreign currency to support its huge appetite for imports. Local industries are operating at a reduced capacity or have closed down altogether.
The banks long ran out of US dollars and have since converted the accounts of locals into “bond notes” – a pseudo-currency purportedly equal in value to the US dollar. Zimbabwe has not had its own currency since it decommissioned its dollar in 2009.
Unemployment hovers around 90 percent.
Heavily in debt and unable to pay its creditors, Zimbabwe’s government has found it increasingly difficult to secure loans from international lenders.
This week, prices of goods shot up, bread is in short supply and the country is running out of drinks. Water is being rationed to just five bottles of 500ml per person. Cooking oil has hit the roof at R139 for a two-litre bottle – more than four times the cost in South Africa.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who narrowly won a disputed election in July, has told his countrymen to brace for more pain.
On Monday he said the new two percent tax imposed on all electronic transactions was a painful but necessary move to revive Zimbabwe’s failing economy.
Just a day after Mnangagwa’s pronouncement, shops in the capital began shutting up shop, prompting a despondent citizen to tweet: “Why don’t they just shut down Zimbabwe for renovations?”