As prices soar, Zimbabweans haunted by memories of hyperinflation

People queue to shop at a supermarket in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 16, 2019. — Reuters pic
People queue to shop at a supermarket in Harare, Zimbabwe, 16, 2019. — Reuters pic

HARARE, Jan 18 — Before prices of basic goods spiked in Zimbabwe this month, cab driver and father-of-six Victor Makazhu could buy nearly two weeks of groceries for US$45. Now that sum will get him less than seven days’ worth.

soared to a 10-year high above 40 per cent in December and has probably risen further since. President Emmerson Mnangagwa this week raised fuel prices by 150 per cent, leading to protests that have triggered a crackdown by security forces.

“At the moment I cannot afford adequate food for my family,” Makazhu said after shopping for staples in central Harare yesterday.

“These groceries will not last me a week,” he told Reuters, pointing to 2 kg packs of sugar, rice, flour and maize meal and milk.

The southern African nation dumped its hyperinflation-wrecked currency in 2009 and adopted the dollar.

Over time, supplies of dollars have dried up and, in November 2016, authorities in Harare launched a surrogate – ‘ notes’ covered by a hard currency and pegged at 1:1 to the dollar.

On the street, however, US$1 now fetches up to three bond notes, leaving citizens able to do little but watch as the money in their bank accounts loses value compared with hard cash.

Few could blame Zimbabweans for feeling a sense of deja vu.

While nowhere near the 500 billion per cent hyperinflation of the crisis of 2008, the country is again grappling with soaring prices and shortages of fuel and medicines.

After four hours of what locals call ‘speculative queueing’ outside a filling station in the centre of town, schoolteacher Gilbert Kepekepe was still nowhere near getting served.

Before the latest price increase he used to spend US$230 to fill his tank, which he did twice a month. Now that would cost him US$528.

“I will have to probably cut on some other things or simply decide not to drive to work. But the other question is, ‘is it cheaper to use public transport’,” said Kepekepe

Analysts said the fuel price hike would trickle down to other basic goods and services, and public taxis known as “kombis” have at least doubled their fares in the last two weeks. — Reuters

Source: The Malay Mail Online

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