Crisis… what crisis? -Moneyweb

Just before sunrise, when the sky was yellow and apricot, a jackal rushed down the road, saw me, turned around, and ran into the golden grass. It was a very cold winter morning and there was an icy wind with the temperature hovering around five degrees.

The briefest of glimpses of the jackal took me instantly back to my childhood at boarding school when the nuns told us not to go out at night (to the boys’ school down the road) because there were jackals pissed off there. It was a good queue that scared us enough that we didn’t try to sleep outside and for sure on those cold winter nights we heard jackals yapping and barking in the long golden grass.

June is Golden Grass Month in Zimbabwe and it feels good to get out and see the beauty of our country. It helps us cope with the nightmare that has once again become everyday life as economic chaos dominates everything we can and cannot do.

Read: Corn seizure and deja vu

Since my last column a fortnight ago, Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has deepened at a frightening rate. The street rate for one US dollar rose from 460 to over 600 while the bank rate continues to lag far behind at 338.

Two weeks ago a loaf of bread cost Z$469, last week it went up to Z$640 and on Thursday it was Z$825 in my home town.

The price of bread, which has always been around the equivalent of one US dollar, was this week the equivalent of 1.40 US$ and our baskets were empty.

Read: Truckers block parts of major South African trade routes

Over the past fortnight, fuel has soared to US$1.76 a litre, but in reality many pump prices have risen to over US$1.80. Toll charges also increased from Z$300 to Z$520 and again on Thursday evening to Z$700.

A big pile of notes in hand you approach the tolls…

They vary from large multi-lane structures to a roof across the highway and a dirty, dented drum in the middle of the road. Some of these “drum tolls” are a shock to behold, as I discovered recently.

Two women on rickety black office chairs with wheels are the money collectors; the chairs are well past their prime with bent armrests and springs and foam rubber oozing from the seats.

It was freezing cold, the women had nowhere to shelter from the wind, and both had scarves wrapped around their heads. You line up the window of your vehicle as close to the woman in the chair as possible and lean over to hand her the large pile of cash. A hand-held POS “tax device” prints out a receipt and the woman with long auburn braids and long fake nails shivers as she hands over the slip of paper.

On the edge along the golden grass, a few more broken black office chairs with broken wheels and no backs are abandoned. To the right – behind a shiny security fence, security lock and Zimbabwe flag – is a smart building where police sit on the grass in the sunshine and watch the drumming proceedings.

At another toll booth further down the highway, it is distressing to see a woman and child picking up corn kernels that have spilled on the side of the road. No chance to offer comfort here, police keep watch and a large sign saying, “No Stopping”. Not loitering.’

SOS Education

Schools have also reached a new crisis point and last week sent an SOS to parents for a tuition ‘top-up’ saying they had been eroded by inflation.

A principal said the school had run out of food and would be forced to close on June 22, more than a month before the end of term. He wrote to the parents saying: “I will not be able to keep the children in school, so I will ask you to collect the pupils from school”.

Teachers are also in great difficulty. Their salaries were last reviewed in February, when the rate was Z$210 to US$1 and is now 600:1. pair of formal shoes from local manufacturers.” (ZimLive)

Crisis?

Meanwhile, as the crisis deepens, the government is blaming us, saying it is companies engaged in “speculative and unethical behavior” that are causing the problem.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa told residents of Murewa last week, “I know you are suffering because of price issues, especially in the food sector. They do this to sabotage us; they want you to turn against us.

Meanwhile Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube was on a whole different page and said “everything is fine” in Zimbabwe.

“What crisis? he said. “We are playing well. We have implemented measures to fight against inflation, we must not panic, everything is in order. (current day)

With all the spinning in my head, my mind went back to the glimpse of the jackal in the golden grass at the first light of our beautiful beleaguered country and the words screaming in my head: Crisis? What crisis?

Copyright © Cathy Buckle

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