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Zimbabweans Devise Ways to Cope with Inflation

  • Safari Njema

Some Zimbabweans have devised various coping mechanisms, amid climbing inflation. From Harare, reporter Safari Njema tells us that many are battling to keep their heads above water.

Foreigners hearing about Zimbabwe's hyperinflation are often curious about how citizens manage to survive. The country's annual inflation rate set a new world recently when it skyrocketed above 100-thousand percent. The local currency has tumbled to a record low of 25 million Zimbabwe dollars to one single US dollar.

Queues for basic commodities, and services, are becoming longer while consumers are able to afford fewer items. While in supermarkets, shoppers dump items when they realize they can't buy the products they're desperate to take home.

Twenty-eight-year-old Martha Munhuweyi from Mabelreign says although prices double about every 2 weeks, many have created imaginative survival strategies. Martha says her sister, who lives in South Africa, got a rude awakening when she visited family in January. She'd been receiving regular requests for financial assistance from relatives in Harare, while residing in Cape Town.

But when she got to Zimbabwe she was amazed to see ladies sporting the latest hair-styles and outfits. Martha says her sister was even more surprised by the number of new clothing shops opening up in the capital.

Samuel Juma from Hatfield says he doesn't know how people still manage to afford to stay in touch with styles, suggesting some may be home-owners who are renting their properties. The 31-year-old says in high density areas such entrepreneurs demand rent payments in foreign currency, mostly South African rand.
But he argues it no longer makes sense to increase rentals monthly, adding charging in rand simplifies the situation for both the tenant and the landlord.

Samuel, who is an office worker in government, says it's not uncommon for those who own small apartments in the city to charge up to 300 United States dollars per month.

Fifty-two-year-old Muneyi Zakariya from Dzivaresekwa explains many residents of high-density areas have become vendors, selling a variety of commodities. He says once they get their money at the end of the day, they immediately buy foreign currency which they can resell at a profit. Government employees are still able to go to work daily and leave for home with some money in their pockets.


Manu Ziyambi, who's a receptionist in a government complex, says a number of his colleagues have converted their offices into mini-supermarkets where they sell scarce commodities. They are well-positioned because they have phones at their disposal. The many people they deal with on a daily basis are also a captive market of prospective clients. Their superiors receive generous allocations to keep silent.

Reporters have noted selected spots in high density areas, where some men spend the day seated under trees drinking beer or playing cards waiting for clients who come to buy fuel. This is the heart of the parallel market. Authorities are said to have either lost the will to control it… or are pocketing kick-backs.

Chitungwiza resident, Sarudzai Mtetwa, alleges says these men are agents of senior government officials who get fuel at subsidized government rates. Mtetwa, who operates an outlet where she sells the Zimbabwean staple, sadza, says the fuel dealers fall into the same category as illegal mineral dealers who are reaping benefits from the country's economic chaos. She adds those with relatives in the diaspora and those who are engaged in the cross border trade are free spenders, managing to reap the best from the system.

However, Isidore Kanemavara from Mufakose says most are barely hanging on, and the lucky individuals leading flashy lifestyles are the exception. He sells sweet potatoes which he brings in from Rusape, adding he knows many families who survive on a single meal per day. Kanemavara points to many vendors who now sell one and two-kilogram packs of mealie meal and sugar.

Isidore says what this means is poor families can't afford ten or 20 kilogram packs and cannot stock anything in the house. Isidore says the rising cost of food is also affecting non-resident students at tertiary institutions. He explains he has friends who survive on a cooked mealie cob a day.

School children are not spared either. 11-year-old Samantha Madyira has only one uniform, which she washes when she returns home from school. Her dress has already lost its color and is fraying at the seams. Her mother, Dadirai, is a cleaner employed by the city council. She bought the dress for 25 million dollars in January. But as the same dress now costs almost 200 million Zimbabwe dollars, she won't be able to buy her daughter the second dress (as promised) any time soon.

With a despondent look on her face, Dadirai says she hopes the coming election will bring some magic remedy that will halt the rising prices.



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