TOPICS > Economy

Zimbabwe’s High Inflation Takes Toll on Population

September 19, 2007 at 6:40 PM EDT

GWEN IFILL: Now, a report on the struggle to survive in Zimbabwe. Under the authoritarian rule of President Robert Mugabe, this African country has been hit by sky-high inflation, and government and private services are breaking down. Some of the faces in this piece are obscured to protect the interviewees from possible government reprisals. From Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, we have a report from Mark Austin of Independent Television News.

MARK AUSTIN, ITV News Correspondent: Dawn in Harare, and the few lucky enough to have jobs begin the daily commute. It is on foot, often for several miles. There’s no affordable petrol, so no transport.

In the townships they have left behind, they are also walking for miles. The search is on for water, any water to keep their families alive. Zimbabwe is running out of almost everything; now it’s running out of the most precious commodity on Earth.

In some places, wells are dug close to raw sewage seeping from cracked pipes. This is a broken country of broken people.

Sixty-six-year-old Agnes Mapango doesn’t have much to sing about. She’s had no running water for three weeks now. This is a grandmother who deals family death certificates like playing cards.


Impacts on food, water

MARK AUSTIN: Her four sons all died before they were 30, and so did their wives. So all nine of her orphaned grandchildren are her responsibility, and it isn't easy.

ZIMBABWEAN GRANDMOTHER: No water. Three weeks, no water, nothing at all. No money for school.

ZIMBABWE RESIDENT: Do you know what they're cooking here?

MARK AUSTIN: A neighbor trying to support them says they have nowhere near enough food, either.

ZIMBABWE RESIDENT: This is not enough. It pains me. It pains me. It pains me, every day, every second, every second, every second left to us it is okay -- but for the kids. I cry for the kids.

MARK AUSTIN: And what does the future hold for them, do you think?

ZIMBABWE RESIDENT: I really don't know. I really don't know. I think it's dark. It's dark.

MARK AUSTIN: Dark, a dark future?


Teacher's view

MARK AUSTIN: And the sad thing is, what we've witnessed here is not unusual for Zimbabwe, where the water shortages, the food shortages, and the AIDS crisis have come together to create what amounts to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Under cover of darkness, we enter another township on the outskirts of Harare, where the power is off more than it's on, where what food the people can muster is cooked outside on firewood, and where homework is by candlelight.

MARK AUSTIN: Harrison, hi.


MARK AUSTIN: Thanks very much for seeing me.

I've come to meet a teacher anxious to tell me how bad things really are here.

ZIMBABWEAN TEACHER: I can say from now onwards, we are just a few steps away from a total collapse. Everyone thinks that it will be better if there's a change of government.

Speaking out

MARK AUSTIN: He knows by talking to me he's risking his life, but he feels he must speak out.

ZIMBABWEAN TEACHER: They are targeting you or they abduct you and beat you. You are tortured.

MARK AUSTIN: So are you scared talking to me now? Are you frightened talking to me now?

ZIMBABWEAN TEACHER: Yes, I'm afraid, because if I'm found talking to you, they -- I will be attacked. But if we are to keep quiet, then we are closing our problems. The world won't know.

MARK AUSTIN: Though there are only small signs of it so far, he predicts a spontaneous explosion of anger in Zimbabwe. The food queues we filmed with a hidden camera are growing longer by the day. Virtually empty supermarkets symbols of Robert Mugabe's disastrous economic management.

Before we left Agnes Mapango, we handed her a bag of maize meal, the staple food here. In today's Zimbabwe, they're grateful even for the smallest of mercies.