Zimbabwe on Tuesday marked its 37th independence anniversary with President Robert Mugabe calling for peace even as the economy has collapsed to the point where livestock is being accepted in place of cash.
The 93-year-old Mugabe broke his tradition of walking the 100 meters to the podium and instead was driven in his official car before soldiers helped him onto the stage.
Mugabe has been in power since the end of British colonial rule in the country in 1980.
In a speech delivered with a barely audible voice, Mugabe called on the people to be wary of the “enemy”.
“We celebrate as a vigilant nation,” he said. “The enemy is ever ready to pounce on any sign of laxity and weakness on our part.”
But leader of the country’s opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai had a different message for the people.
“Every Zimbabwean must ask themselves whether we really deserve this suffering in a country for which so many paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said in a statement to mark the independence.
Zimbabwe, a once-prosperous country now faces a cash crisis and high unemployment.
An education official said that livestock can be accepted as school fees.
“Parents of the concerned pupils can pay their fees using livestock,” the Permanent Secretary of Zimbabwe’s education ministry, Sylvia Utete-Masango, was quoted as saying.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Lazarus Dokora, also told a local newspaper: “Our schools have to be flexible and ensure those who do not have money to pay fees can work. For example, if there is a builder in the community, he/she must be given that opportunity to work as a form of payment of tuition fees.”
Also, a bill presented to the Zambian parliament last week – The Movable Property Security Interests bill – seeks to allow livestock and household appliances to be acceptable as collateral for loans after evaluation and registration by the central bank.
Cash shortages hit Zimbabwe last year after the government threatened to grab all foreign companies operating in the country under the Indigenisation and Empowerment Law.
Banks in Zimbabwe were compelled to reduce withdrawal bank limits for customers to as low as US$40 per day per individual.
This has led to hundreds of ordinary Zimbabweans sleeping outside banks daily to get the much needed cash.
World leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin sent congratulatory messages to mark the independence anniversary.