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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2007, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
E-mails from Zimbabwe
Empty shelves in modest neighbourhood, Harare (L) and full shelves in Harare elite area (R)

Zimbabweans share e-mails that they have written to their friends and family outside the country, over the past week, painting a picture of their daily trials and tribulations to find food and fuel.

President Robert Mugabe said on Tuesday that the current strict price controls will continue in an effort to turn around the country's ailing economy.

Click on the links below to read their e-mails.

Tapiwa, 28
Teacher, Harare

James, 27
Businessman, Marondera

Esther, 28
Professional, Harare

Gift, 30
Executive, Harare

Sister Mary
Librarian, Harare

Nyika, 40
Consultant, Harare

All names have been changed or removed to protect the contributors' and the recipients' identities.

TAPIWA, 28, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, HARARE

Hello from a harsh Harare...

I have to resign from my teaching position because my life is unsustainable. I am in a big deficit.

Commuters wait at Harare railway station after commuter buses are impounded for overcharging
Tapiwa cannot afford to commute to work anymore

I only earn about 3.5m Zimbabwean dollars (equivalent to $22 at current black market exchange rate).

I live in a high density area about 25kms from city centre. Everyday I have to commute to work and I use about 200,000 Zimbabwean dollars ($1.25) per journey so this translates for me in a month, on transport alone, my whole salary.

I'm a lodger and altogether pay 1.5m Zimbabwean dollars ($9) on rent. So you can see already, it is really difficult to live in such a situation.

Where I stay, there are constant sewage breakdowns and so there is always raw sewage flowing around. I have to jump over these "streams". No-one comes to collect the waste anymore.

And we are actually living in darkness. For the past two weeks there has been no power - day or night.

A small bundle of firewood costs 50,000 Zimbabwean dollars ($0.31) For a month's firewood you would need 2m Zimbabwean dollars ($12.50).

I will look for an informal job (there are no proper ones anymore) - selling some things to try raise some money to fend for myself and my wife and my kid, and my parents in the rural area.

I am forking out more than I have. Even though there is virtually nothing in the shops - to get anything one must scramble for it.

If I can't make enough selling some things then I am going to skip the country. I know that with my qualifications, I can get well remunerated in South Africa or Botswana.

And luckily, I have a passport and so it will not be difficult.

Pray for me, my friends,
Tapiwa

JAMES, 27, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER, MARONDERA

Hello from Zimbabwe

It took me a long time to respond to your mail because of power cuts. It just shows how serious the economic problems are here. It has became a norm to have electricity for only six hours a day - from 11pm to 5am.

We now dearly depend on firewood for cooking and candles for light and the situation is becoming worse each day. I guess you are wondering where I got the electricity to power this computer..?

Electricity is available 24 hours a day to some sections, such as hospitals and the government's intelligence officers (CIO) and so I'm sending this mail from a friend of mine who stays close to the provincial hospital.

Students of Zimbabwe University evicted for not paying fees
James dropped out of university as he could no longer afford the fees

Anyway let me continue, I had to drop out of my studies in 2005 as I couldn't afford to pay the fees.

To make ends meet I opened my own company specialising in photocopying, typing and stationery. During my first year of business, my company grew and became a force to be reckoned with.

But come 2007, things are going down.

The economy is down on its knees.

Lack of electricity is forcing me out of business. As mentioned before, we rarely get power during the day and to make things worse I can't carry out our kind of business at night since most of the documents we handle are "private and confidential".

I bought a generator last year when we were first warned about imminent power shortages but even it is no help these days - there is no fuel... except for the black market but it is so expensive.

Service stations are pumping air and my generator is lying idle. How we make a living still remains a mystery. No-one outside Zim can understand our style.

I now sell anything legal that I can. This means my office is still open, for now anyway.

Remember us please? We still need your prayers and whatever assistance you can offer to make things better this side.

Bye for now!
James

ESTHER, 28, PROFESSIONAL, HARARE

Hi my sisters

All the news reports that you hear about supermarket shelves are not an exaggeration. It is really true.

Empty shelves in Harare supermarket
Some friends and I have started going to South Africa to do our grocery shopping - to buy toilet paper, potatoes, carrots, eggs... basically everything
Esther, Harare

Things are bad.

I am getting used to the way things are. It's basically more of the same except for these latest price slashes. I can't buy meat and there's nothing left in the freezer and so, like many others, I've been forced to become a vegetarian.

You know the walls I was having built round my house...well now no-one can buy cement and so the job is just half done... I don't know if it will ever be finished.

Life is so expensive and it has gone from bad to worse.

Things have disappeared from the shelves. Some friends and I have started going to South Africa to do our grocery shopping - to buy toilet paper, potatoes, carrots, eggs... basically everything. You cannot walk into a supermarket with your trolley like you used, now you have to queue up for everything.

Life is one long queue... rumours come round about a certain supermarket getting margarine and so everyone rushes there to wait and see - totally ridiculous!

That has been my life over the last two weeks but faith in God keeps me going. I hope you are OK too.

Your sister,
Esther

GIFT, 30, EXECUTIVE, HARARE

Hi!

I was fortunate enough to have fuel to drive around at the weekend since I got fuel coupons to fill up. I say fortunately as my beer drinking habit has forced me and my friends to drive from one beer outlet to the other in search of beer, which has also joined the scarce commodities group.

Pork
Meat is very difficult to come by in Zimbabwe

Worse still, our normal braais [bbqs] of beef, pork etc, are long since gone. It's like finding gold if you happen to bump into them. I haven't eaten beef for over three weeks now.

Whilst driving round on our search for beer, we would enter supermarkets with empty shelves and lengths and lengths of people snaking around and outside the shop, either in a queue for bread or fresh milk or sour milk etc, the basic commodities.

At one point I bumped into a bread truck just about to offload loaves and so was very lucky to be the first one to buy some bread.

Think of us in our city of empty shelves where everything, even beer, is scarce.

Regards,
Gift

SISTER MARY, NUN AND LIBRARIAN, HARARE

My dear friend,

Thanks so much for your email - amidst the chaos of the floods of Britain! At least in Zim we have the sunshine - usually!

Shoe shop empty after price cut put in practise
Most shelves in Zimbabwean shops are empty

The costs of trying to get our library staff to work now is almost impossible since the bus drivers are charging excessively high fares and government seems unable to prevent it.

It is now difficult to find any food to buy so we are constantly on the look-out for anything edible. Salaries go nowhere so we have to use our own initiative to bail our staff out on a daily basis.

Our library and rehab dept is serving all the blind of Zimbabwe so if we close; none of them, old and young, black and white, student and retiree, will have books nor equipment nor anything.

We are still desperately trying to raise a further $40,000 (20,000) to buy a house near the library to accommodate our librarian, Chisamba, and his wife, Sakina, and son, Patrick, (a keen Arsenal fan! Where he gets the info I have no idea), as well as blind adults. There is a big garden where they would be able to grow food. It would mean the salvation of our library, and enable us to keep going during these very difficult times.

Many people have helped but we just need this last final lap before Rotary can organise the purchase.

We do believe there is a future but we have to prepare for that future now, we cannot give up and keep looking for a sign of hope for this truly wonderful country and its people.

Love and God bless
Sister Mary

NYIKA, 40, BUSINESS CONSULTANT, HARARE

Hi Chucks,

Since my last email to you, can you imagine that at the moment I'm really grounded in terms of business opportunities and basic foodstuffs?

Firewood vendors pile up stocks of firewood at Harare's main marketplace
It is hard to find fuel for cooking and for cars

At the moment it is quite hard to get any consultancy work and when I am paid I only manage to buy not even a quarter of what I could've bought when I initially wrote the job's invoice. Although I have a BSC Hons in Financial Services and work as a consultant, I can barely feed myself.

At the moment there is hardly any work coming by because of the high interest rates and the general slump in business activity.

So as you can see I can hardly make any ends meet at the moment. A litre of fuel costs me almost 385 Zimbabwean dollars and when you consider that $1 on the black market is about 150 Zimbabwean dollars, you can see the people who we get the fuel from are really milking us. So any amount that you manage to make, you spend it on fuel and as you know my business depends on a lot of travelling.

It is quite hard at the moment for any form of business because of the high operating costs. And also the time you waste looking for fuel and basic commodities. And as you know in consultancy, time is money.

So as you can see my friend, you better start looking for some work for me in the UK because it is now untenable over here.

With regards,
Nyika


You can watch a special report on the situation in Zimbabwe on BBC ONE at 2200 BST on Tuesday 24 July 2007.

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