Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe - Tick, Tock
From Cathy Buckle
Dear Family and Friends,
I went grocery shopping at the biggest wholesale supermarket in Marondera on Friday. In a town with a population of probably nearly a million people, there are only two wholesalers and this one used to be jam packed, wall to wall with people. Just a couple of months ago you would wait, sometimes for half an hour, just to reach the front of the queue to pay for your groceries. All that has changed in the last couple of weeks as Zimbabwe's inflation has soared and it has now become almost impossible for businesses to replace their goods as the prices are going up so rapidly.
I spent the first ten or fifteen minutes just walking around the wholesaler looking first at the prices and then at what wasn't available. Aside from potatoes there were no vegetables at all to buy; none, not even the common and easy to grow things like carrots, tomatoes, cabbages or beans. Aside from seven small punnets of strawberries there was no fruit at all to be bought - not a banana or even one single orange. There was no bread of any type or any other bread products like rolls or buns. There was no milk, cheese, eggs, margarine or yoghurt. There was no sugar, maize meal or flour. Whew, basic shopping for the family has become a nightmare.
Eventually, after walking around and picking things up and putting them back, I did eventually buy a weeks worth of groceries and it was frightening. A four pack of one ply local toilet paper had increased in price from thirty seven to fifty two thousand dollars in just six days. My groceries, with no dairy produce, vegetables, meat, alcohol or confectionery, cost the same as a four bedroomed, two bathroomed house on an acre of land with a swimming pool had cost just four years ago.
How utterly absurd that this is the situation on the ground in a small Zimbabwean farming town, where the day time temperatures are in the high twenties celsius and the farms are right there, on our front and back doorsteps. How ridiculous, too, that in these circumstances Zimbabwe has this week been hosting a UN conference on food safety and security in Africa.
One day during the week I switched on local television to see if I could find some coverage of the food safety conference. Mr Mugabe's speech to the delegates was being replayed, the one where he defended his governments seizure of all white owned commercial farms over the past five years. "Land, land, land" he said, "means food, food, food to the people." That speech was followed by a couple of minutes of film footage showing elaborately dressed women delegates with amazing head gear, acres of yellow flowing tablecloths, and people sipping delicately from their bottles of pure spring water. It did not show desperate ordinary people in Zimbabwe trying to bring food safety into their own homes as they scour the supermarkets for anything they can afford to buy.
So, while Mr Mugabe is adamant that land, land, land means food, food, food, ordinary people like me are saying tick tock, tick tock, how much longer can this situation hold. It feels like a time bomb which is ticking down, faster and faster. Please remember the ordinary people of Zimbabwe in your thoughts and prayers.
Until next week, love cathy
Copyright cathy buckle 8th October 2005