Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Overweight Zimbabwe Dollars Sheds 10 Zeros

Inflation running at 15,000,000 percent has Zimbabwe in a vice grip, sparking international pleas for revaluation of the currency. A billion Zimbabwe dollars does not put a loaf of bread on the table. Just over a quarter of a billion Zimbabwe dollars does buy a can of baked beans. Food on the shelves in Harare is subject to price increases several times in the same day. Carrying money in Zimbabwe is burdensome because the weight to carry that many bills render wallets and small pocketbooks obsolete. One needs wheelbarrows and a great back. There is speculation that the current ongoing economic crisis could put the president of Zimbabwe, the dastardly Robert Mugabe, in further dire political straits so soon after his sham June presidential election.

Harare is fast becoming a city of unemployed, impoverished zillionaires - struggling to spend thick wads of banknotes in empty supermarkets before the cash becomes worthless, and increasingly dependent on funds sent home by the millions of Zimbabweans who have already fled abroad.

In the subdued, seemingly half-empty capital, people wait in long queues outside banks to withdraw a maximum of a 100bn dollars a day.

In bars, the price of beer goes up between rounds.
Many people are reduced to eating one meal a day.
Beyond the inflation, the decrease in farming and one of the highest illiteracy rates in Africa are frog marching Zimbabwe to failed state status. Once, Zimbabwe was to be on the golden path of joining first world development by being prepared to meet their governing challenges. Kind of odd that the current crisis springs from the place that gave the world scouting. Once upon a time, in real life Zimbabwe also had 50 pound notes. One zero involved. Today's action was to make the equivalent of 10 billion Zimbabwe dollars the province of one. They are also bringing back coins which were stricken from the official money register almost twenty years ago. Jingling change is now real money again.
Gono said the new money would be launched with 500-dollar bills. He also said he was reintroducing coins, which have been obsolete for years, and told people to dig out their old ones.
That could be a boon for Fungai Matambo, a 33-year-old vendor of airtime for cell phones who said she has kept a large milk pail full of old coins.

"I'm very happy now," she laughed. "In the old terms, I'm a multi-trillionaire!"
But, she noted, there was little to buy in the shops.
Zimbabwe's armed forces are paid with the inflated dollars and troop anger is on the rise. The situation is fraught with enough tension that South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, flew in to continue his Mugabe protection efforts. Mugabe in a nationally televised address threatens to take an ominous emergency posture as profligate businesses take advantage to squeeze as much profit as possible out of the nation's misfortune. The almost eighty year old Mugabe's ruthlessness against political opponents is legendary.

When A Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa is the real life story told by a child of Zimbabwe that experienced the fall of Rhodesia at Mugabe's hands. Peter Godwin finds out about his Polish Jewish ancestry upending all thoughts he had about his identity.

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