This Life

As the ancient Chinese curse goes, we are indeed "living in interesting times". But don't expect this blog to be another litany of Zimbabwe's misfortunes. That story has been told many times over. What you will get are my observations on the daily life of Zimbabweans living here now. The joy and the pain. The little things that you will not find on BBC or SABC News International. I will try to make this a daily blog. If I falter, I am only human.



So here;s the first instalment then. The last three days have been crazy. The movement in exchange rates has been massive, paying no attention to the pronouncements of bureaucrats at all, even as they threaten to take away licences. They all know nothing will come of it. That route has been tried before and it has failed.



The suspension of the RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) system, which allowed ordinary people to transfer money into each other's accounts across different banks meant nothing, because all who play game had long since opened accounts at all the banks in order to speed up payments. RTGS was now inefficient, sometimes taking weeks before the money was reflected in the account of the person you were paying. Internal transfers, however were much faster, reflecting within minutes. So the parallel market was ahead of the Reserve Bank on that one. Money is still changing hands, despite the suspension and foreign currency rates for transfers (there are at least three exchange rates in Zimbabwe, none of them even close to each other) have been going through the roof: the quote was for Z$1.8 million yesterday, Friday 03 October 2008.



Between Wednesday and today, Saturday 04 October, bus fare for a typical journey within Harare rose from $800 (new currency, which has had ten zeroes lopped of it) to $3000, yes, that's three thousand dollars! A vast number of people are now exclusively using pick-up trucks as public transport, because they tend to be cheaper. As of today, the cheapest 2 litre bottle of Mazoe Orange Juice is Z$38 000. The more established supermarkets are quoting the same product at over a million Zim dollars.

Beef at butcheries is being quoted at US$5 at local butcheries in the high density areas. If you opt to pay with Zim dollars, one butchery in the high density areas (the poorer suburbs of Harare), is quoting Z$200 000 per kg. Considering that the cash rate for the US dollar is Z$ 5000, that translates into US$40 per kg for beef if you had cash and used it to buy US dollars on the open market (so-called black market).

I hear Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe were in discussion again today about sharing cabinet posts. The sooner that business is done and a government announced, the sooner this madness will end. The announcement of a cabinet will have the immediate effect of lowering all rates and prices, as happened in the aftermath of the signing of the deal itself.

Otherwise Zimbabweans seem to be going about things as though things were normal. Minibuses rush back and forth full of people throughout the day. Commuters are going into town every day to withdraw their paltry $20 000 from the bank. It has to be everyday because value is being eroded pretty much by the hour.

What do you need to know about Zimbabwe? Post your comments here and I will try my darnest to bring it to you.

This being an introductory post, I will sign off now. Until tomorrow

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