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Zimbabwe’s Economic Crisis Wipes Out Christmas Cheer

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'We'll Never Seize Zim Assets Despite The Country Failing To Settle Debt Arrears,' - China

At Solomon Chakauya’s grocery store in Zimbabwe’s Chinamhora district outside Harare, there’s no sign of the seasonal Christmas rush that he needs to keep his business afloat.

Even in the country’s toughest times, sales rocketed in the days before Christmas, but this year few people are able to buy anything.

It is a far cry from the revived economy that President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised more than a year ago when he took over from the ousted Robert Mugabe.

Instead, shortages of bread, cooking oil and fuel have worsened in recent months, banknotes become even scarcer and shop shelves have often been left bare.

“In previous years, people would stream in to buy things like rice, oil, biscuits, sweets, soup powder and drinks. It was so busy I would be on my feet all day,” Chakauya, 29, told AFP.

“Things are tough and most people have no money.”

But over this holiday season, Chakauya has sometimes had only four customers a day, leaving him to kill time sitting in the shade in front of his store.

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‘I don’t consider it Christmas at all’

Local villager Emilda Chingarambe said that for the first time in many years she could not buy her two daughters new clothes for Christmas day.

“I don’t consider it Christmas at all,” said Chingarambe whose husband works part-time as a labourer tilling fields.

“There is no bread in the shops. We can’t afford flour and groceries we usually buy for Christmas.”

Shortages have fuelled a ferocious climb in prices and long queues.

In Chinamhora, a litre of cooking oil was around $3.50 in early September and is now selling for $10. Inflation is officially 20 percent.

Once ubiquitous soft drinks such as Coca-Cola and the local Mazoe juice have also become hard to find.

“I haven’t seen Coca-Cola in the last two months,” Chingarambe said.

No post-Mugabe boom

Zimbabwe’s economy has been in dire straits since hyperinflation wiped out savings between 2007 and 2009 and the Zimbabwean dollar was abandoned.

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Under Mugabe, farms were seized, agriculture collapsed and investors fled as the country became internationally isolated.

Mugabe’s fall last year saw Mnangagwa – his former deputy – claim that he represented a fresh start.

But the country has only lurched into fresh economic trouble after July that failed to encourage foreign investors or to unleash a flood of aid.

“The challenges have dampened the festive mood,” Prosper Chitambara, economist at the think-tank Labour and Economic Research Institute, told AFP.

“It does not look like there is going to be an immediate end to the queues and shortages. Next year, there is going to be lots of pressure on the government to increase salaries which will put pressure on expenditure.”

The latest downturn erupted two months ago when finance minister Mthuli Ncube announced a two-percent tax on all electronic transactions to increase revenue.

Zimbabweans rely on electronic payments in US dollars, which are in short supply and function as the main currency. The local “bond note” currency is little trusted.

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Many shops and pharmacies have closed down in the capital, Harare. Those still operating charge much more when customers pay electronically or in bond notes than in US dollars.

In one shop, a bottle of paracetamol syrup is 3 US dollars in cash, 15 dollars in bond notes — and 17 dollars when using a bank card.

Doctors at state hospitals have been on strike for the past three weeks demanding salaries in US dollars while a group of teachers completed a 200km walk from the eastern city of Mutare to Harare to demand better pay.

At the ruling Zanu-PF party last week, Mnangagwa admitted the economy “was characterised by fuel shortages, high cost of drugs, medicines (and) wide range of basic commodities.”

He offered little immediate relief, instead blaming “gluttonous” businesses for price rises that “resulted in untold suffering to the majority of our people.”

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African Summit Gives Sudan Military Three Months To Implement Reforms

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African Summit Gives Sudan Military Three Months To Implement Reforms

African leaders have agreed, at a meeting in Cairo on Tuesday, to give Sudan’s ruling military council three months to implement democratic reforms, and a quick restoration of the constitutional system through a political process, amid pressure for a handover of power to civilians.

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The decision extends a 15-day deadline set by the African Union last week for Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) to hand over power or be suspended from the A.U. TMC took over after president Omar Al-Bashir was ousted earlier this month.

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The TMC has been under pressure from demonstrators to hand power to civilians immediately.

Egypt`s Abdul Fatah Al Sisi, who holds the rotating African Union presidency, said at the end of the summit in Cairo, they have agreed on the need to give more time to Sudanese authorities and Sudanese parties to implement required measures.

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Mozambican Authorities Warn Of A Possible Tropical Storm Hit

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Mozambican Authorities Warn Of A Possible Tropical Storm Hit

Mozambican authorities have warned of a tropical storm that could hit the country this week, just one month after cyclone Idai ravaged the nation. The next organized tropical cyclone, to be named Kenneth could also affect Tanzania.

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The National Institute for Disaster Management’s spokesman, Paulo Tomás says, they will keep abreast of the evolution of the weather system.

Last month, cyclone Idai killed at least 960 people in parts of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, leaving some 3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

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Egypt Voters Approve Referendum Extending President’s Rule

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Egypt Voters Approve Referendum Extending President's Rule

Egypt’s election commission has announced, 88% of voters had approved changes to the constitution that could allow president Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi stay in power until 2030. The amendments would also give the president new powers over the judiciary.

The commission says, voter turnout during the three-day referendum was nearly 44 and a half percent and almost 90 percent approved the amendments while 11.17 percent voted no.

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The amendments will extend Sisi’s current term to six years from four and allow him to run again for a third six-year term in 2024 and to appoint one or more vice presidents.

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His critics questioned the credibility of the turnout figure announced and are asking how can a constitution be changed to fit one person.

Sisi’s supporters say he has stabilized Egypt and needs more time to reform and develop the economy.

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After the announcement was made, Al-Sisi sent the message quote “I am your god.”

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