Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa abruptly doubled the price of petrol, throwing the country into turmoil. Gasoline in the economically-shattered country is now the world’s most expensive.
Angry Zimbabweans took to the streets in the capital and dozens of other cities to protest, resulting in confrontations with security forces.
The government responded by cancelling flights into Harare and imposing a ‘total internet shutdown’ for most of the day on January 18.
Reports of child tortures
Since then, numerous reports have arisen of at least a dozen deaths, hundreds of arrests and citizens being assaulted and tortured – including children as young as nine – according to the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR).
Those consumers prepared to venture out of their homes in search of bread are queuing for hours on end in most parts of the country.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Sifelani Jabangwe said the bread shortage can be attributed to the shutdown as bread manufacturers are still trying to catch up with supplies.
“The bread making system itself takes time after shutting down for some time because there are a lot of supply chains involved,” said Jabangwe.
“The other challenge before the shutdown was fuel because most companies need diesel to heat up machines and for the distribution.”
Another bread price hike
The shortage has caused a further hike in the bread price, which is now around US$1.45 from US$0.41 in October last year. It has also precipitated the black market, with unscrupulous vendors selling bread to desperate citizens between US$2 and US$3.
Bread is a staple for the country’s 16.53 million population – 72% of whom live in chronic poverty – who consume around 1.8 million loaves of bread per day.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has stated he is worried about “the deterioration of the situation.”