(AP) - Things were bad even before Zimbabwe's presidential election, with inflation so high workers sometimes couldn't afford the bus fare to get to their jobs.
Now, government departments and factories report workers aren't coming because of uncertainty about the future - and fear of unrest. It's been 12 days since the vote, with no word on who won, leaving an entire country wondering who's running things while the opposition and President Robert Mugabe's regime trade accusations over who is to blame for the political turmoil.
"We cannot keep our production lines going in this atmosphere. We need some sort of closure on the elections. Thirty percent of our employees are staying home," said one Harare executive who asked not to be identified out of fear of official reprisals.
He said normal contacts between businesses and government trade and industry officials had come to a standstill.
"It's impossible to get any answers on day-to-day problems," he said.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change says its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the March 29 vote outright. Projections from independent observers put Tsvangirai ahead, but not far enough to avoid a runoff, leading to speculation Mugabe is delaying the release of results so he can orchestrate a second-round victory.
Mugabe dissolved parliament on the eve of polling. Under the constitution, he remains president until the confirmation of the election winner and a victor is sworn into office.
Mugabe, though, has made few public appearances since the vote. In apparent response to the worries over a vacuum, the state-controlled Herald on Thursday published a statement from Minister of Information and Publicity Sikhanyiso Ndlovu saying Cabinet ministers will remain in office until a new Cabinet is announced to allow for the smooth running of government.
But there has been little evidence of high-level government decision making. Routine functions of state and local council authorities have virtually collapsed.
The state security printer told one Harare company it was too busy producing ballot papers for a runoff vote to immediately issue a certificate of incorporation. Drivers in Harare parked their vehicles in restricted zones with little fear of being ticketed or prosecuted. Police checkpoints on main highways were unusually lax.
While police may be neglecting routine duties, their presence in Harare has been beefed up, with uniformed officers on most street corners in groups of two and up to eight. That has contributed to fears of potential unrest.
"It is as if the country is playing 'mahumbwe,'" said Jacob Kufandikwa, a Harare businessman, referring to a local game in which children playact everyday life.
The power and water outages that had been symptoms of the economic collapse under Mugabe continued. Shops are emptier than before the vote. Daily deliveries, however small, of bread and other basics are intermittent and have ceased altogether in some areas.
Prices have soared in the past week. The daily Herald went up Thursday from 3 million Zimbabwe dollars to 20 million Zimbabwe dollars. Independent finance houses calculate inflation at around 290,000 percent compared to the official 100,500 percent.
Chronic milk shortages worsened Thursday as ruling party militants disrupted milking in the Beatrice dairy area southwest of Harare, farmers said. Mugabe's party has focused on white farmers, apparently as part of its runoff campaign, portraying the opposition as poised to reverse Mugabe's drive to put more land in black hands. Mugabe claimed his land reform was to benefit poor blacks, but gave most seized farms to relatives, friends and cronies, and agricultural production has plunged.
The dominant black market exchange rate dropped to about 36 million Zimbabwe dollars for a single U.S. dollar after poll results showed Mugabe's party lost control of the parliament in voting held alongside the presidential vote. But with the stalemate over the presidential results, the black market rate soared Thursday to 50 million to one U.S. dollar, the highest so far.
The local stock exchange in Harare also stabilized, then surged again as speculators hedged into safe corporate stock rather than invest in industry or production, brokers said.
"If Mugabe had won the election, we would have had the results after a couple of days," said Kufandikwa, the businessman.
"We all thought the clock was ticking fast for him to go, but now it has stopped," he said.