Whangārei grandmother Rosaria Manjala witnessed first hand the chronic food and fuel shortage while visiting Zimbabwe recently and reckons outside intervention is the only hope for the troubled African nation.

She's among more than two dozen Zimbabweans living in Northland troubled by the political upheaval back home where a steep rise in fuel prices, ordered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, prompted violence on the streets this week.

At least eight people were reportedly killed and 200 arbitrarily detained while Amnesty International called on the Zimbabwean security forces to "exercise restraint".

Access to the internet and social media has been shut off and armed soldiers are patrolling major cities.

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Plain-clothed soldiers remove the barricade as protestors gather during a demonstration over the hike in fuel prices in Zimbabwe. Photo/AP
Plain-clothed soldiers remove the barricade as protestors gather during a demonstration over the hike in fuel prices in Zimbabwe. Photo/AP

"I think outside intervention will help because the current regime is beating and killing people. This government should step aside and give the country to the young ones to lead," Manjala said.

Last year's general election after Robert Mugabe relinquished power in 2017 gave Zimbabweans hope things would change for the better but Manjala was doubtful as Mnangagwa served as the vice-president under Mugabe.

She spent a month with her daughter in the capital Harare and said she twice queued for petrol but the fuel ran out before she made it to the pumps.

Rosaria Manjala believes overseas intervention is the only hope of saving Zimbabwe's economy. Photo/Tania Whyte
Rosaria Manjala believes overseas intervention is the only hope of saving Zimbabwe's economy. Photo/Tania Whyte

Manjala could not visit family and friends due to a shortage of fuel and said people, including civil servants, have lost hope the economy could be revived.

"Doctors and teachers were on strike for one month over poor pay while I was there. People are sleeping at the petrol pumps for three to four days and still cannot get fuel. It's the same with food"

Manjala's son, Northland dairy consultant Tafi Manjala, described the mood among ordinary Zimbabweans as "deflated", saying things have gone backwards since Mugabe relinquished power in 2017.

"People are queuing for their money in banks and fuel for days on end— even for basic commodities in shops. The international community has no confident the current political leadership can turn things around.

"The current leadership either don't have the ability or the willingness to improve the economy which, in turn, will improve the people's livelihood. That's the biggest challenge," he said.

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Another Whangārei-based Zimbabwean who did not wish to be named described the situation back home as "heart breaking"

"In this day and age, it's absolutely horrendous for the army to bully and beat people. I think it's cruel and incredibly sad what's happening in Zimbabwe," she said.