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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Living in Mugabe's Zimbabwe
Zimbabwean Herbert is 27 years old - born in 1980 when his nation became independent. Talking to the BBC News website by telephone, he reflected on the ups and downs of living under President Robert Mugabe.

Hundreds of children hold placards showing a portrait of President Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe gained its independence from Britain 27 years ago
I am not excited about the independence anniversary celebrations.

Why should I be?

I have nothing to celebrate.

I am buying bread at 6,000 Zimbabwean dollars ($0.34 at current black market exchange rate) for a loaf and two litres of cooking oil for 120,000 Zimbabwean dollars ($6.70).

I was only taking 500,000 Zimbabwean dollars ($28) home a month. But even that is no more. As of yesterday, I was laid off from my clerical job.

And now, because this is Zimbabwe, I know that I am not going to get another job.

I live in a rented flat with my wife and family and so I am still thinking of what I can do to carry on living and paying the rent. Maybe I will sell some of my furniture.

The whole Zimbabwe situation is not pleasing at the moment. Not at all. Everything costs so much, most have so little and everywhere there are secret police. We are not free anymore.

I was born in Mutare [eastern city on border with neighbouring Mozambique] but moved to Harare a few years back to find work after my parents passed away.

I remember how beautiful our country was in the 80s.

Finding gold

My gran used to give me 50 Zimbabwean cents to go buy bread, butter and milk - all that for so little! It was easy to live well.

Mugabe is already a hero and he always will be

And when we were at junior school, five cents in your pocket could get you sweets to last the whole week. I tell you, finding a five cent piece on the pavement was like finding gold!

Now if you see a 1,000 Zimbabwean dollar note on the floor, you just keep walking. You don't stop. It is nothing - no-one will even pick it up.

Back then, after independence, we all loved President Mugabe. But now we don't. The only ones that do are those who benefit from his rule.

I don't mind if Zanu-PF stays as the ruling party, I really don't. I just want there to be change at the top.

Mugabe is already a hero and he always will be but there is nothing more for him to do. He must just step down.

When he was prime minister everything was fine.

But when his first wife, Sally, died, he started going the other way. That women loved our country - she did so much for us.

A lot has changed. And it all started then.

Now, our country is dead. I really want a better Zimbabwe.

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