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Zimbabwe’s president has more than doubled the price of gasoline, hoping the increase will end severe shortages that are fueling public anger even as he departs on a foreign trip to Russia and other countries in search of investment. In a press conference Saturday night, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the increase in the state-controlled price of fuel should ease the shortages that have gripped the country in recent weeks.
The president left Zimbabwe on Sunday on a trip that will end with his attendance at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, angering critics who say he should stay at home to deal with the crisis.
The gas shortages highlight that this southern African country is battling its worst economic crisis in a decade due to a severe shortage of foreign currency.
The lack of fuel means that police walk for kilometers (miles) with handcuffed suspects because their vehicles are grounded. Ambulances, school buses, public transport vehicles and garbage trucks spend days waiting in line for diesel and petrol.
Some motorists camp out at fuel stations where pumps are dry for days. Others simply park their vehicles at the nearest gas station in hopes of being in a prime spot when fuel eventually becomes available.
In a stark contrast that is also stoking public anger, a video on social media shows a long line of cars waiting for gasoline along a roadside as what appears to be Mnangagwa’s presidential convoy, escorted by motorcyles, zips past the desperate motorists.
The fuel crisis is just part of Zimbabwe’s overarching economic decline under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who briefly inspired hope after taking over from his mentor, longtime ruler Robert Mugabe with the help of the military in November 2017.
Zimbabwe’s economy, which was already struggling when Mnangagwa took over, has dramatically tanked since he narrowly won disputed elections in July last year. Inflation rose to 31 percent in November last year, the highest since 2009, while foreign currency shortages could force some of the few factories still operating to close “in a month or so,” said Sifelani Jabangwe, the president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, the representative body for private industry.
“The country is grinding to a halt,” he said at a meeting on the economy on Thursday.