Page last updated at 01:13 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Harare diary: Bread winners and losers

Man holding a loaf of bread (File photo)
Even bread can no longer be bought with Zimbabwe dollars

Esther (not her real name), 29, is a professional living and working in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.

She says bread is cheaper now under the power sharing government - but only for those with US dollars.

Life in Harare is great - a lot better than in the past - for me at least.

If I want to buy sugar, soap or bread, I no longer have to travel to South Africa.

I can go to the local supermarket.

The trip to to South Africa was 20 hours by bus - and another 20 hours back.

I am able to start saving money. That was not possible a few months ago

That 40-hour trip was killing me.

Now for day-to-day products we can go to the supermarket - the prices have come down.

At first, the bread was three, four times more expensive than in South Africa.

Now it is better - anything from 80 US cents to $1. That's 8-10 rand - not much more than in South Africa.


I can even choose between white bread, brown, wholemeal, French loaf.

For breakfast this morning I had cereal and fresh milk - which was unheard of in these parts last year.

However, some goods are still more expensive because they are classed as luxuries.

Cheese for example is US$6 for 200g. I buy it only when I have a serious craving.

It's true that for many here there has been an improvement in day-to-day life.

The journey for food is getting shorter

For the first time I can look forward. I am able to start saving money. That was not possible for me a few months ago.

I am aiming to buy a set of couches. The price here is US$1,000. I have nothing particular in mind - I am just looking forward to sitting down.

After all that we have been through, yes, I will definitely be making some time to sit down.

Sweet nothing

The problem is that for other people - they are starting to struggle more and more.

The Zimbabwe dollar is growing more and more useless every day. Basically you can buy nothing.

You get paid a trillion dollars and you can't buy anything with it.

Nobody wants Zim dollars. Nobody. Not even the people selling sweets by the road.

But Harare's poorest are still struggling to survive

If you don't get your salary paid in foreign currency you are in serious trouble.

Now everything - water, electricity - have to be paid for in US dollars.

Some people are sinking into serious poverty. Life is unbearable for people without US dollars.

I've got relatives - cousins of 15 years old - who have nothing.

If they sell bread rolls they might make $5 a day. That is not enough for school fees.

The teachers are back at school now, but I am not sure for how long.

The pay - $100 - does not go a long way, so they may be back on strike soon.

I'm not sure if the schools will be practically closed again, or if the unity government will some find some money from donors.

How long can you go on with someone else supporting your wage bill?

The unity government will need to find some way of generating funds for Zimbabwe or this will be a recurring problem.

No accident

Of course, everyone here is still talking about "the accident".

I mean the car crash which killed Susan Tsvangirai, the wife of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Nobody here is convinced by the official story.

I read somewhere: "The only thing that was an accident is that Susan died and not Morgan."

That is pretty much the view around here.

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