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Page last updated at 08:31 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 09:31 UK

Harare diary: No more trillionaires

A $100bn note in Zimbabwe

Esther (not her real name), 28, a professional living and working in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, is writing a regular diary on the challenges of leading a normal life.

Zimbabwe is suffering from an acute economic crisis. The country has the world's highest rate of inflation and just one in five has an official job.

At midnight, my bank stripped me of my trillionaire status - the Z$5 trillion sitting in my account became Z$500.

Coins are coming back, we have not used those in close to a decade

So no more talk of trillionaires, quandrillionaires and quintillionaires.

At least, not for another six months or so.

People are relieved, while taking 10 zeros off our currency does nothing to address hyper-hyper inflation, at least writing cheques no longer require a maths wiz at your side, telling you if you've put too many, too little or just enough zeros.

And coins are coming back, we have not used those in close to a decade!

The sad thing is that it is deja vu. We have been here before.

Passengers boarding a bus in Zimbabwe
Bus fares changed three times last week

Last August, the governor of the Reserve Bank knocked off three zeros, and we were paying a few hundred bucks for bread, milk, and transport.

By December, it was hundreds of thousands, then millions in January, and billions by April.

So while we welcome the convenience that's coming with dealing with smaller figures, the general feeling is that something really has to be done about inflation.

Just last week, bus fares changed three times!

We started the week paying Z$50bn, then it was Z$70bn, then Z$100bn.

Thankfully it stopped there, but that was probably because the Reserve Bank failed to change the daily withdrawal limit in that time, keeping it at Z$100bn - just enough for one fare!

I know at least three professionals who failed to go to work at least once in the week because they simply did not have the cash to commute while their trillions were sitting in their accounts.

Rumours abound

Another thing that gives us a feeling of deja vu are the ongoing talks between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

A dripping tape in Harare
Some parts of Harare have been without running water for months now

A unity accord was signed in 1987 between Zanu and the late nationalist leader Joshua Nkoma's Zapu party. Zapu is now but a distant memory in our minds, that unity accord just gobbled it up.

Only the negotiators are so tight lipped... I've never seen a media blackout that works that well! We don't know what's going on with those talks.

That of course means rumours abound - we hear the talks have collapsed because Zanu-PF wants MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to take a vice president's post, or because President Robert Mugabe refuses to accept just a ceremonial role.

Most of us have no idea what is going on, we just do not have much faith in the process.

People in some sections of the capital have been without a constant supply of running water for months now.

I know women who wake up in the dead of the night to fill up their water containers and do their laundry because that's the only time running water is available.

Is a power-sharing deal going to address that, as well as the power shortage, the rampant inflation and the 90% unemployment? Will it depoliticise the security forces?

So many of us wanted change, not compromise. How come our voices are not respected?




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