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Zimbabweans Dream of Hitting  National Lottery Jackpot - 2003-07-12

Living with shortages of food, fuel and cash, Zimbabweans are accustomed to standing in long lines for many hours, only to find stocks are exhausted before their turn comes. But, they can line up for one commodity that never runs out.

Zimbabweans line up by the thousands for the chance to become instant millionaires. The national lottery - the Lotto - lets them invest as little as 15 U.S. cents for a chance to hit the jackpot by choosing six correct numbers out of 45. Those who come close, and get five, or four numbers right, also get smaller cash prizes.

Should somebody guess the right six numbers in the Saturday draw, the jackpot is $73 million Zimbabwe dollars, equal to more than $36,000 (US). There are not many winners, but there are a lot of Zimbabweans with dreams of how they would handle the jackpot.

One says he will try to look for a farm to invest in farming. Another says she has no idea but will will decide when he wins. A third one would buy a house.

The chances of winning the jackpot are pretty slim, but there are weekly winners in this lottery. Lotto Chairman Mick Davis says a minimum of 20 percent of ticket sales - between $80 and $100 million Zimbabwean dollars -goes to various charities every three months.

He says due to hard times in Zimbabwe, his committee is swamped by requests for charity.

And because of increased costs, he has been forced to increase ticket prices. But that has not made the lottery lines any shorter. Zimbabweans still have that dream that one day they will hit the jackpot.