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ZIMBABWEANS face yet another bleak festive season as prices of basic commodities, mostly foodstuffs, continue to rise with retailers citing the current power outages as the main driver of price increases.

Last year the COVID-19 pandemic which triggered global lockdowns which saw festivities confined to indoors.

The price of fuel has also been steadily going up, while the local currency has been gradually losing value on the official and parallel markets, driving up prices of goods and services as businesses seek to hedge against losses.

While the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) says annual inflation slowed to 255% last month from 268,67% in October, the situation on the ground could drive the figures back upwards.

A survey by NewsDay showed that most prices of basic commodities such as cooking oil, sugar, tea leaves and salt have marginally increased.

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In downtown Harare, where prices are exclusively pegged in United States dollars, 2 litres of cooking oil which last week were at US$2,74 now range between US$2,90 and US$3, while Mazoe Orange Crush now costs US$3 from US$2,70 for a 2-litre bottle.

Clothing prices have also increased with a pair of jeans which were pegged at around US$9 or US$12 a week ago now costing between US$15 and US$20.

Retailers Association of Zimbabwe president Denford Mutashu said the increase was caused by power outages.

“The power supply challenges emboldened by the punishing load shedding have resulted in marginal increases in basics and non-basics as production costs rise sharply,” Mutashu said.

Zimbabweans are enduring several hours without electricity as the power utility, Zesa Holdings, struggles to meet demand. The situation also looks bleak with prospects that one of the country’s major power suppliers, Kariba Power Station could go off grid as water levels in Lake Kariba are now critically low for power generation.

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Zimbabwe’s largest electricity-generating plant is the Kariba Hydro Power Station.

Currently, it is producing 598 megawatts of electricity which is 65% of the total electricity production in Zimbabwe of 913MW.

On Tuesday, Cabinet said Energy and Power Development minister Zhemu Soda would issue a ministerial statement on the electricity crisis.

Consumer Council of Zimbabwe spokesperson Chris Kamba said he was in the bank and could not comment.

Efforts to get in touch with him afterwards were futile as he was not picking calls. Statistics on month-on-month inflation released by ZimStat on Wednesday showed that prices of meat, food, sea products and fruits increased in November.

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“The food poverty line as at November 2022 stood at $21 652,27. This means that the minimum needs basket cost that much per person in November 2022. This represents an increase of 0,9% over the October 2022 figure of $21 454,60,” a ZimStat statement read.

“The Total Consumption Poverty Line for Zimbabwe stood at $28 516,73 per person in November 2022. This means that an individual required that much to purchase both non-food and food items as at November 2022 in order not to be deemed poor. This represents an increase of 1,3% compared to the October 2022 figure of $28 144,07.”

As the cost of living keeps rising, workers’ salaries in the public and private sectors have remained stagnant despite mounting calls for United States dollar-denominated remuneration.

Economist Prosper Chitambara also blamed power outages for the price increases.

“I would assume that it has been caused mainly by power outages the economy has been experiencing which probably had put pressure on companies in terms of the cost of production. Any power outages will have an adverse effect on the economy,” Chitambara said.

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