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Fuel prices on July 23, 2019 in Harare, Zimbabwe have increased several times but the liquid remains in short supply just like most essentials like electricity.

Zimbabwe’s government workers, including public prosecutors, say they are being squeezed by inflation, which is now running at an annual rate of 175 percent. Some have asked to live in their places of work to cut down on the cost of rent and transportation.

Thirty-one-year-old Munyaradzi Masiiwa is a high school teacher in Harare. Masiiwa says he went into the profession because he admired his teachers growing up, and saw them living in nice houses and driving nice cars.

But now, he says, he has lost all motivation, because his salary of less than $30 per month isn't enough to support his five dependents, including his 75-year-old mother and two children.

This month, he says, the money lasted only three days.

“I am going to work right now and l just got porridge. I cannot afford to buy a loaf of bread... It is very difficult, it is very difficult to get used to the situation. The family is looking up to me; l have nothing to offer. The kids are going to school with nothing to eat,” Masiiwa said.

Munyaradzi Masiiwa, having porridge for breakfast at his home in Harare on July 23, 2019, as he cannot afford a loaf of bread due to high cost of living in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has warned of possible strikes unless the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa does something to arrest inflation.

Masiiwa, however, says he believes a strike will just bring a heavy-handed government response.

“If we try to demonstrate or to organize strikes we are being torched, we are being abducted. So it is becoming difficult to organize ourselves. So in that situation we no longer have hope when we cannot organize ourselves even to negotiate with the government. They already know the situation we are in,” Masiiwa said.

Energy Mutodi, Zimbabwe's junior information minister, says the government is aware of the workers' concerns and is taking steps to address them.

“...We need the people to be patient. We are coming from many years of economic stabilization and that must be known and that needs to be then corrected through a long process of correcting our economic fundamentals and that is happening,” Mutodi said.

Energy Mutodi, Zimbabwe Junior Information Minister on July 23, 2019, in Harare says the government wants citizens to be patient as the country recover from many years of economic destabilization under former president Robert Mugabe’s 37 year rule.

The government's “austerity for prosperity” program has resulted in reduced expenditures and a rare budget surplus in recent months. But it also cut down subsidies for essentials such as electricity and fuel.

For Masiiwa and other workers like him, that means more days of no electricity, not enough food and no clean tap water.

Workers in various government departments have sought permission to live at their workplace, even in courtrooms, to cut on transport and rent costs. The government has dismissed the requests as the work of the opposition.

FILE: Unidentified rural women in Seke, Zimbabwe, 120 kilometres east of Harare, carry bags of donated maize from a food distribution point. (AP)

A philanthropist and farmer have hauled Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrence Shiri and the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to court challenging the restrictive measures banning the sale of maize grain in the country and giving the state-run Grain Marketing Board (GMB) a monopoly over trade in the commodity.

In an application filed in the High Court, Allan Markham, a philanthropist, and Clever Rambanapasi, a farmer, argued that Statutory Instrument 145 of 2019 Grain Marketing (Control of Sale of Maize) Regulations, 2019, which was recently gazetted by government had made GMB the sole trader of maize in the country and made it illegal for people to trade in maize among themselves and banned the transportation of more than five bags of maize grain except in situations where one is delivering to the state-run body.

The regulations also empowered Zimbabwe Republic Police officers to seize maize grain suspected of being moved without authority and compliance with the law.

But through their lawyer Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Markham, who is a philanthropist who buys and sells maize in communities to support many charities, and Rambanapasi, a farmer based in Murewa in Mashonaland East province, protested that through the regulations, Shiri had set up a monopoly and a dangerous one which bars anyone who trades in grain whether he or she is a buyer or seller to only do so through the GMB and at a fixed price.

Markham and Rambanapasi charged that “the consequences and effect of the restrictive regulations and of declaring a product a controlled one is drastic as it affects the contractual right of farmers and traders of buying grain from any party or individual and has a serious effect on livelihoods especially in rural communities where communal farmers produce subsistence maize.”

Rambanapasi, who runs a small piggery project in Murewa, argued that maize is an essential ingredient in pig production and he buys the grain from rural communities in various villages to feed his pigs while Hon. Markham, who as a philanthropist supports some charities in the country, said he buys maize from communal farmers, which he uses to feed vulnerable communities in high density suburbs.

The duo said the regulations had affected people who engage in barter trade in communities and had also affected the freedom to contract and freedom to trade as professional millers, retailers and other organisations and individuals, who previously had the right to buy maize everywhere could no longer do so except from GMB.

Hon. Markham, who is also the legislator for Harare North constituency and is an entrepreneur with extensive interest in the agriculture sector, and Rambanapasi said the restrictive regulations has an effect on due process rights protected under Section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe “of which both procedural and substantive due process requires that one has notice, and one has choices and opportunities, which have been taken away by Statutory Instrument 145 of 2019 Grain Marketing (Control of Sale of Maize) Regulations, 2019.”

The regulations on grain, Markham and Rambanapasi said, has the effect of “depriving one of his property and appropriating the same to the GMB at a price that is already fixed and does not make economic sense.

Markham and Rambanapasi want Statutory Instrument 145 of 2019 Grain Marketing (Control of Sale of Maize) Regulations, 2019 “to be declared as ultra vires the Constitution in particular Section 56, 58, 64 and 71 of the Constitution.”

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