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Humor Helps Zimbabweans Beat Economic Stress


Many Zimbabweans say they are despondent and depressed over shortages, price hikes and other challenges. But on-going economic decline has also created its own brand of biting humor. From Harare, Loirdham Moyo describes some of the banter used by people reacting to serious problems.

As the cost of beef, chicken and pork soars, housewives have created their own slang to describe new dishes. Fun and humorous, the uninitiated won't have a clue what people are talking about unless they've been given a clear explanation.

For example, the cheapest and lowest grade of beef costs at least 17million Zimbabwe dollars per kilogram. This is partly why housewives now compete for the cheapest available delicacies, some which were shunned not too long ago.

When some women say they are preparing "full chicken" for supper, they are actually cooking the quella (a tiny bird) found in wheat plantations in the lowveld. The animals are trapped by villagers along the Save river at night, when they roost. They are an extremely popular replacement for impossibly scarce chicken.

Amid ongoing shortages of water, residents of many urban centers now refer to gathering rainfall from their roofs as "gathering manna from Heaven". Most suburbs go for days without having a single drop of water from the taps. Many say – thanks to the rainy season – they now rely on downpours for drinking water and laundry.

Additionally, housewives make a cheap dish of cabbage more appetizing by referring to it as a cow's head or a pig's head, while green vegetables are referred to as "green meat".

The list of unavailable items lengthens, including a shortage of cell phones and poor (if any) TV and radio transmissions. Fed up Zimbabweans now say these services – when not available -- are "on voicemail". Most have become accustomed to not being able to contact business associates, relatives or friends… let alone watching their favourite programs.

Some government para-statals have been re-named. The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, or ZESA, has been dubbed "The Zimbabwe Electricity Sometimes Available". Others say any acronym starting with a "Z" means bad news and no service. Included on the list is the water authority ZINWA, now called "Zimbabwe No Water Available", and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. The latter has been re-named the Zanu Republic Police due its partisan support for the ruling ZANU party.

Zimbabweans say if it wasn't for humor, they couldn’t overcome the daily challenges they face. They say humor is the best way to alleviate stress.

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