Children suffer from Zimbabwe’s economic turmoil

A young boy sells boiled eggs and buns on the streets of Harare. (AP)
Updated 11 August 2019

Children suffer from Zimbabwe’s economic turmoil

HARARE: It is only a few hours since Zimbabwe’s schools closed for month-long August holidays, and 13-year-old Tanyaradzwa is already milling outside a bar “doing business,” he says. He hawks cigarettes outside a dingy downtown bar in the capital, Harare, and for a fee, helps motorists find parking space.
“I am not a street kid. I come here to sell my things, go home and use the money to buy food,” said Tanyaradzwa, who did not give his last name to protect his privacy.
With power cuts lasting 19 hours per day, debilitating water shortages, inflation at 175 percent and many basic items in scarce supply, Zimbabwe’s children are the silent victims of the once-prosperous southern African country’s debilitating economic downfall.
For his family of six to eat, Tanyaradzwa must hang around the bar at the popular Elizabeth Hotel in hopes of cashing in on afternoon drinkers and passers-by who want to buy cigarettes, he said.
His parents run a small vegetable stall in Glen View, a working class residential area, but what they make is hardly enough to pay the bills, let alone buy food, he said.
Many people can no longer afford to put food on the table without the help of their children — no matter how young.

Children are forced to juggle between school demands and supplementing the family income through street vending or selling at small stalls.
“These holidays just mean more work. There is no break, because I now have no excuse not to work every day,” said Tanyaradzwa.
On the adjacent, busy street named after former longtime ruler Robert Mugabe, children joined elders pushing fruit and vegetable carts. Some kids held cardboard boxes selling items ranging from cigarettes, cell phone airtime, sweets and clothing.
According to Mercy Mpata, a teachers’ representative, the demands are taking many children’s focus away from school.
“There is a lot of absenteeism because the children have a lot on their plate,” said Mpata, the spokeswoman for the Association of Rural Teachers of Zimbabwe.
“Even if they come (to school), they are either sleepy or, instead of concentrating on school work they are busy thinking ‘Where will we get the next meal if I don’t sell enough items after school today?’“
Teachers have their own grievances. They are paid the equivalent of about $50 a month and, like the rest of the civil service, say they cannot live on those wages, which they call “slave salaries.”
“We live in the community. We interact with these children and their parents. They are like family. That’s why we always try to give it our all ... but hungry teachers teaching hungry children, that’s tough,” said Mpata.
The food situation is dire in Zimbabwe, with about a third of the country’s 17 million people being food insecure due to drought and the worsening economy, according to a report released this month by UN agencies, international aid organizations and the government.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the drought a national disaster on Tuesday. On the same day, the UN launched a $331 million appeal to mitigate the unfolding disaster. Children, according to the appeal, are some of the hardest hit. Close to 160,000 children and adolescents will need welfare and child protection services, according to the UN.
“There is a risk that children and adolescents will increasingly experience psychosocial distress as some are likely to drop out of school, pushed away from home to seek employment,” said the UN in its appeal for funds.
Expectations were high that Zimbabwe’s economy would grow following Mugabe’s departure at the end of 2017. But the economy did not take off and will contract 3 percent this year, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, said this month.
After inflation reached a decade-high of 175.6 percent last month, Ncube suspended the country’s monthly inflation reports, saying that last year’s prices were in US dollars and now they are in Zimbabwe’s currency, introduced in June, so they are not comparable.
However, that has not stopped schools from feeling the pinch of rising prices and eroding incomes. For the coming school term, some boarding schools are asking parents to provide food instead of paying school fee increases.
But that’s just for the fortunate children who still have parents and guardians able to afford such boarding facilities.
For many children such as Tanyaradzwa, juggling between school and eking out a living takes a toll, even as they desperately hold on to bouts of hope.
“I have dreams, big ones,” he said, smiling. “I want to be a lawyer.”
To achieve that dream, he is sacrificing much of his childhood.
“There is no time to play with friends,” he said. “The work, the school, it takes all of my time.”


Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

Updated 22 August 2019

Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

  • Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence

DUBAI: Gulf Marine Services said on Wednesday Chief Executive Officer Duncan Anderson has resigned as the oilfield industry contractor warned a reassessment of its ships and contracts showed profit would fall this year, kicking its shares 12 percent down.

The Abu Dhabi-based offshore services specialist said a review by new finance chief Stephen Kersley of its large E-class vessels operating in Northwest Europe and the Middle East pointed to 2019 core earnings of between $45 million and $48 million, below $58 million that it reported last year.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Anderson, who has served as CEO for 12 years, was asked to step down. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

The company, which in the past predominantly operated in the UAE, expanded operations and deployed large vessels in the North Sea and Saudi Arabia nine years ago and listed its shares in London in 2014.

Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence.

The North Sea has seen a revival in production in recent years due to new fields coming on line and improved performance by operators following the 2014 oil price collapse.

Still, the basin’s production is expected to decline over the next decade, according to Britain’s Oil and Gas Authority.

“(The CFO’s) review has coincided with a pause in renewables-related self-propelled self-elevating support vessels activity in the North Sea, which will impact several of the higher day-rate E-Class vessels,” Investec wrote in a note.

Gulf Marine appointed industry veteran Kersley as chief financial officer in late May as it sought to halt a slide which has seen the company’s shares fall nearly 80 percent last year and another 23 percent so far this year.

The company said market conditions remained challenging and that it was still in talks with its financial advisors regarding a new capital structure.

“Management, the new board and the group’s advisors, have been in negotiation with the group’s banks on resetting its capital structure and progress has been made,” it said in a statement.

Last year, Gulf Marine said contracts were delayed into 2019 as the company was seen to be in breach of certain banking covenants at the end of 2018.

The company said it was still in talks with its banks and individual lenders with hopes of getting a waiver or an agreement to amend the concerned covenants.