The political situation remains uncertain even months after the general elections. We witnessed a number of demonstrations and people had running battles with the police. Things tend to be calmer in rural areas. The Internet has been closed down intermittently by the government related to the call for a general strike. The country remains politically unstable and the standard of living for the majority of the ordinary people continues to decline. Aging and deteriorating essential infrastructure is having an increasingly negative effect on the growth of the economy. Service delivery is poor and there is a threat of disease out-brakes in parts of the country.
The economy of the country continues to be depressed. Lack of foreign investment continues because of the unfavourable business environment. There is a serious shortage of cash throughout the country resulting in people needing to spend a great deal of their time queuing for money at the banks. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has introduced daily cash withdrawal limits for individuals and organizations. There are campaigns to promote the use of plastic money (credit & debit cards) to release pressure on the use of cash. In order to ease cash shortages, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has introduced ‘Bond Notes’ but the public is very sceptical of them, resulting in resistance from the public and the corporate world to their use. Despite this, the government went ahead and introduced the bond notes. We now have bond coins and five and two-dollar bond notes in circulation. This has resulted in the rise of inflation and we are beginning to see a differential pricing system. Prices are quoted in US dollars, a price for electronic transfers, a price if payment is made through bank-bank transfer, and a price for bond notes. The bond notes are supposed to be at par with the US dollar, but they are not.
Last year’s agricultural season was very poor because we experienced drought in many parts of the country; agriculture is the back bone of Zimbabwe’s economy. Many parts of the country did not produce a good harvest which has necessitated supplementary feeding programs. Most rural communities were negatively affected and have had to rely on food handouts from drought relief programs initiated by government, church related organizations and many non-governmental organizations. On a positive note, however, the current season has had above normal rainfall. Generally, the whole country has received good rains. We are expecting a good harvest and reduced food shortage pressures.
Impact on People
The situation has impacted negatively on the people. Zimbabwe currently has the highest unemployment rate in the world resulting in many people having to depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood. In the past we used to experience rural to urban migration with people hoping for a better life in the cities. Life now in the urban areas is also unbearable which means that people have nowhere to turn to.
Impact on the Church
The church has been affected negatively by these developments. Tithes and offerings have dropped significantly. We are beginning to see signs that the majority of churches in the diocese are struggle to pay their assessments. This in turn affects the smooth running of the church. Many churches are now finding it hard to meet their recurrent expenditure. This is a natural result of the harsh economic environment that the church is operating in. The story of the church is no different from other institutions and corporate organizations in the country.