That’s the latest official Zimbabwean dollar inflation rate. 231 million % isn’t a number I can make sense of or begin to understand, mathematically, but it can be visualised in seeing the misery and starvation throughout the Country.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has revised up the number of people it says need food aid. It now says seven million Zimbabweans are in need of food aid, up from 5.1 million in June. Put into perspective this is eight out of every ten Zimbabweans who need food aid! I’ve taken the current population as less than 9 million from a recent article by Eddie Cross (click on the 24 Jan 2009 article) who is the MP for Bullawayo South. Eddie’s site is well worth reading.
I’m writing this because of the news yesterday, on the BBC, that Zimbabwe abandons its currency. If you watch the video embeded in the article please don’t be misled by how the supermarket in which it’s filmed appears – the shelves are full and everything is normal. That’s not reality for Zimbabweans who haven’t got access to foreign currency.
How do people get access to foreign currency? Salaries are still paid in Zimbabwe dollars and buying foreign currency with your earned Zim dollars wont work – a teacher’s monthly salary would buy 1 US$ at the current exchange rate (with 231m% inflation it probably fell as I typed those words). The US$ prices in the supermarket are about the same as the US$ dollar price would be in a supermarket in Florida, Ohio etc. So you see how useless 1 US$ dollar a month is.
The foreign currency comes from those who have abandoned Zimbabwe in an attempt to live ‘normally’ and are sending money home to relatives. As a generalisation this leaves a large percentage of the population without much possibility of having someone outside Zimbabwe support them – the 25 to 40 year olds who probably have young children. They don’t have children old enough to have left Zimbabwe and be sending money home and their parents (possibly, but unlikely to still be alive) too old to have left Zimbabwe. They may have brother or sisters outside Zimbabwe but there’s only so much money someone living abroad has after paying for their own needs.
That story is here. Then I came across this picture :-)
Ever heard of them? I hadn’t until a couple of days ago when I was googling on a story I’d heard that a Stagecoach driver driver refused to allow a blind woman with a guide dog on to his bus – as there was already a guide dog on board. The story is here. In another link I read that this was contrary to the above regulations as ammended by The Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) (Amendment) Regulations 2002. All interesting stuff!
You may think I’m wandering off topic now but something happened today which is relevant to this. I was boarding passengers at Winchester bus station when one passenger showed me a weekly ticket. The ticket was perfectly printed in every way except the second digit of the expiry date couldn’t be read – it read like “Expiry 2* January”. This weekly ticket is enclosed in a plastic sealed wallet to protect it, but and when I ran my finger over the plastic above the second digit it suddenly felt rough. A bit like it had been pricked by a pin many times. I told the passenger I wasn’t satisfied with the ticket and would take it to the office for checking. As I stepped off the bus I collided with a Standards Controller (Inspector) getting on!! Normally a Standards Controller is the last person you want to see since they seem to be more intent on trying to catch drivers out than passengers. I showed the guy the ticket and explained my reservations about it. The Standards Controller checked like I had and then told the passenger that he was satisfied that the ticket had been tampered with and that he was confiscating the ticket. If the passenger still wanted to travel then he must purchase another ticket.
The relevance of all this is that it’s specifically covered by the Regulations under:
(5) Any passenger on a vehicle being used for the carriage of passengers at separate fares who has with him a ticket which he is not entitled to retain for any reason including-
(a) the alteration or defacement of the ticket;
shall surrender the ticket to a driver, inspector or conductor on being required to do so.
The Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990 can be read in full here.
Dear Family and Friends,
The ticking ofï¿½Zimbabwe’s time bombï¿½is getting louder and faster by the day. Power sharing talks have again collapsed;ï¿½cholera isï¿½spreading and the death toll rising; teachers, nurses and doctors are demanding payment in US dollars in order to report for dutyï¿½and the poverty of most families is growing worse by the day.
There is nowï¿½nothing you can buy in Zimbabwe dollars as even roadside vegetable vendors have resorted to selling their wares in US dollars or South African Rand. A handful of tomatoes, aï¿½bunch of onions,ï¿½half aï¿½ dozen bananas or even aï¿½single, sweet, stickyï¿½mangoï¿½ – all areï¿½priced in American dollars.ï¿½If you don’t have foreign currency you go hungry, it’sï¿½as simple as that. You also go sick,ï¿½can’t get a bed in a private hospital,ï¿½can’t have a baby, can’t get on a bus, can’t get a passport, can’tï¿½even buy a packet of headache pills.
The only thing you can do with Zimbabwe dollars,ï¿½ï¿½if you canï¿½get them out of the bank, isï¿½pay your telephone, water, and electricity bills. The authorities runningï¿½Zimbabwe continue to refuse to allow the utilitiesï¿½companies to charge in US dollars and so the services theyï¿½provide have deteriorated to the point of almost complete collapse. Stick thin employees at parastatals wearing threadbare suits continue to report for workï¿½while everything around them falls apart. They have no stationery to invoice customers, no receipt books, no ink for computers.ï¿½Theyï¿½have no answers to the increasingly angryï¿½queriesï¿½from their customers such as why haveï¿½dustbinsï¿½not been collected for eight months; when are blocked sewer pipes going to be cleared, when are cavernous pot holes on the roads going to be filled. These civil servants have littleï¿½reason to go to work anymore and it seems only a matter of time before theyï¿½just don’t bother anymore.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½
For people without foreign currency life has become a living hell. A government teacher I met showed me her December pay slip. Her monthly salary was 10 trillion dollars. The exchange rate on the dayï¿½ meant that in a month she had earned just one US dollar. I asked her if she would be returning to the classroom when schools re-open and she said no. She said the bus fare to get to her school on the first day alone would cost herï¿½one US dollar, and then how would she get home, what would she have to eat, how would she get to school the next day.ï¿½
Zimbabweans are looking to SADC and the African Union in the days ahead. Surely soon they will have to say: enough suffering, enough death, enough?
Today, late afternoon, a Barn Owl flew across the road in front of me and into a wooded area. I was only able to see it for a few moments but it was a real treat to see the Barn Owl swooping amongst the trees. At the same time it was able to observe the ground and spot something as tiny as mouse whilst being able to avoid the trees and branches it was flying through! If I had that sort of vision I’d be able to read a book and drive the bus at the same time in complete safety!
I’ve watched Owls before and just love seeing them fly amongst trees like this one. The fascination is heightened by the fact that the Owl flies absolutely silently, no clatter like a Wood Pigeon’s wings, no whoosh as the air passes over it’s wings.
Last week Zimbabwe’s central bank began circulating Z$10, Z$20 and Z$50 billion notes – but they are no longer sufficient. They are now going to print 100 Trillion Zim$ bank notes, equal to about ï¿½20 today but devalueing fast. Inflation is currently said to be 231,000,000% but many believe it to be greater than this! In a couple of weeks time I expect to read that 100 Billion Trillion Zim$ notes are to introduced.
Zim$ bank notes have a picture of balancing rocks on them; balancing rocks are a feature of the Zimbabwean landscape. Here are a couple of pictures of balancing rocks I took in Zimbabwe. The first picture bears a striking similarity to the rocks on the bank note.