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Zimbabwe - Operation Sunset
From Cathy Buckle

Dear Family and Friends,
It's been just over a year since three zeroes were removed from our currency. That move in August 2006 was called Operation Sunrise and turned a million into a thousand dollars and a thousand into a single dollar. Thirteen new notes were introduced. They weren't bank notes, still had expiry dates on them and were called Bearer Cheques. Now, just fourteen months later ten of those notes are as good as useless, two are useful for change but actually buy nothing and one new, bigger denomination note has been introduced.
Zimbabwe stumbled distressingly through the money change a year ago. Great armies of youths were disgorged onto our streets and they stood at roadblocks demanding to see how much money we had on us. Cars, buses, suitcases and handbags were searched and anyone found with more money than stipulated by the Reserve Bank, had their money seized. On a lower level, people with a million dollars in their bank or savings accounts, discovered that overnight the zeroes had been removed and a million became a thousand. Those lost zeroes are coming home to roost now as many investment centres are announcing new minimum balances of a million dollars - anything less and the accounts are being made dormant. Pensioners and others on fixed and minimum incomes are losing their precious savings again.
Fourteen months down the line since the zero slashing and Zimbabwe is back in that same ridiculous place again. The queues in the banks are huge, the piles of money we have to carry around have reached satchel size proportions, our regular bills are in millions and calculations run into billions very rapidly. We've stopped using paper clips to hold notes together and are back in rubber band land again. The prices of the few things still available to buy are so large they we're all back to peering at price stickers and counting the zeroes again. The money counting machines which temporarily went into the storerooms are back out on the counter tops and whirring their way through endless piles of almost worthless money.
Earlier in the week the official inflation rate was announced to be 7892%. With virtually no food to buy in the shops, it's impossible to try and understand just exactly how the food part of the inflation calculation is made. However it's done, is a world away from what's happening on the ground. When you've gone without a basic household product for three months or more, you grab it when you see it and just hope you've got enough money to pay for it.
This week it was margarine. The last time this was openly on sale it had been 100 thousand dollars On Monday a friend said she'd seen margarine but it was 400 thousand dollars for a 500g pack. By Tuesday it was gone. On Wednesday it was back, same brand, same size but the price had gone up to 620 thousand dollars. By Friday there were only four or five packets left on the shelf and the price had gone up again, this time to 720 thousand dollars.
It's virtually impossible to live like this and everywhere, everyone longs for change. For most of us the politics, the secret talks, the quiet diplomacy and the rumours about succession have left the suffering of the ordinary people completely out of the equation.We are waiting, just waiting, for Operation Sunset.
Until next week, thanks for reading,
love cathy.
Copyright cathy buckle 20 October 2007. www.cathybuckle.com My books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available in South Africa from <mailto:books@clarkesbooks.co.za>books@clarkesbooks.co.za and in the UK from <mailto:orders@africabookcentre.com>orders@africabookcentre.com To subscribe/unsubscribe to this newsletter, please write to: <mailto:cbuckle@mango.zw>cbuckle@mango.zw


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