Zimbabwe on brink as inflation, economic hardships soar

As Zimbabwe grapples with hyperinflation and economic hardships, the streets of Harare come alive after sunset with a bustling trade scene.

HARARE – As Zimbabwe grapples with hyperinflation and economic hardships, the streets of Harare come alive after sunset with a bustling trade scene.

Informal vendors, operating makeshift shops from carts, cars, and trucks, offer a wide range of goods on the city centre’s pavements.

With cash-crunched Zimbabweans seeking affordable alternatives, these street hawkers have become increasingly popular for grocery shopping, offering lower prices compared to big supermarkets burdened with overhead costs.

Blessing Steven, a 23-year-old taxi driver, shared his preference for shopping outside, stating, “Everything is always cheaper outside.”

He opted to buy a bottle of juice for $0.50 from a roadside stall instead of paying $1 at a supermarket, effectively saving money.

Shingirirai Goriondo, a 23-year-old juice vendor, claimed to attract more customers than the adjacent retail outlet, emphasising that the beverages he sold were priced double at the supermarket chain Foodworld.

Zimbabwe has been plagued by skyrocketing inflation in recent weeks, exacerbated by the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for August.

While the official inflation rate stood at over 280% in April, analysts estimate the actual rate to be well over 700%.

Economists attribute the crisis to the steep depreciation of the local currency on the black market, where most trading occurs.

The Zimbabwean dollar, which was trading at around 1,000 against the US dollar just a month ago, now costs between 3,800 and 4,000 Zimbabwean dollars on the street, significantly higher than the official rate of 1,888.

This situation has led to price fluctuations in supermarkets, prompting staff to change price tags every morning to keep up with the exchange rate.

The situation is reminiscent of the 2008 hyperinflation crisis when prices would change before diners finished their meals, leading to the infamous issuance of a 100-trillion-dollar note.

AfDB chief Adesina optimistic Zimbabwe will settle arrears
FILE PHOTO: Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube (L) and African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina (R) addressing journalists in Harare after a meeting.

In an attempt to stabilize the economy, the government has resorted to various measures, such as issuing gold coins and launching a gold-backed digital currency, but these efforts have not yielded positive results thus far.

Tendai Biti, former finance minister and current deputy president of opposition political party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), blames the current finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, for much of the chaos.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, on the other hand, points fingers at businesses favouring the US dollar, stating that Zimbabwean workers are forced to buy basics priced exclusively in foreign currency.

The streets of Harare become busier after dark due to fewer police presence, allowing informal traders to operate more freely.

Operating earlier in the day risks confiscation of goods and fines. Julius Munyanyi, a 46-year-old vendor, expressed concerns about the police crackdown and stated, “If we come earlier…we might end up having our goods confiscated and fined.”

Despite the ongoing economic crisis, street traders like Munyanyi are thriving. He highlighted the viability of purchasing goods from street vendors, stating, “Customers find it viable to buy from us. We literally don’t have competition.”

Customers, such as Mike Mashuro, a 51-year-old local resident, echo this sentiment, believing that purchasing from supermarkets is akin to “throwing away your money.”

As Zimbabwe continues to face economic challenges, the resilience of informal street vendors in providing affordable options for everyday necessities has become a lifeline for many Zimbabweans.

  • All quotes were retrieved via AFP
RosGwen24 News
RosGwen24 News
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