Shooting yourself in the foot
By Cathy Buckle
Dear Family and Friends,
People start to queue from as early as 5 am on weekday mornings outside a local bakery in town. They’re queuing for bread, not because it’s in short supply but because they want to buy the cheap bread that’s available first thing every morning.
The cheap bread is breakages: loaves that have got damaged in deliveries or come off the production line misshapen, broken or below standard. Instead of paying US$1 a loaf, the cheap bread is half the price: 50 cents a loaf.
Selling starts at 6.30 or 7.00 in the morning and by then there are often a hundred or more people crowded on the pavement and along the road outside the bakery. Until recently you could buy as many cheap loaves as you wanted; some people were even buying fifty loaves but lately it’s been limited to a maximum of ten loaves per person.
It soon became obvious that bulk buyers of cheap bread were taking their 50 cent loaves and reselling them for 60 or 70 cents a loaf. This is just another way that Zimbabwe’s 90% unemployed people have found to make a few dollars in order to pay their rent, keep the kids in school and food on the table.
While this is going on every day in small town Zimbabwe, the National Bakers Association said recently that the operating capacity of the baking industry has dropped to 50% because of falling demand.
Falling demand because of cash shortages; cash shortages because of unemployment. It’s a vicious circle in which everyone learns fast how to change with the circumstances in order to survive and meet their responsibilities in Zimbabwe’s new economic crisis.
Everyone that is, except the government which seems to be clueless about how to get Zimbabwe out of the huge financial crisis it’s in. A case in point is the massive electricity shortage affecting the whole country.
Electricity suppliers ZESA publish schedules of “load shedding” indicating which times of day different areas will be without power. The schedules however, are a complete waste of time because they’re never adhered to.
The power is never on when they say it’ll be on and the cuts never last for the stipulated six to twelve hours at a time, instead they last for seventeen or eighteen hours. For people who were making a living from home doing things like baking, sewing, welding, printing or anything using machines it’s become impossible to keep going.
For companies and producers using generators to keep functioning, the costs spiral upwards and inevitably get passed on to customers.
This week the government’s solution to the power crisis came in an announcement that all mining companies and other big industries must reduce their electricity consumption by 25% with immediate effect. They don’t go on to say what effect the obvious reduced production will have on the country or how companies will be able to avoid redundancies as their production drops.
Another ‘solution’ being proposed by government is to ban electric geysers. Oh really, you say to yourself, what are they going to do, go door to door and rip your geyser out of the roof? Will they ban water taps next you wonder as you stagger in with another bucket because the taps are dry again.
Often asked why I keep speaking out about issues in Zimbabwe, my reply is this: if you love your country how can you stay silent? So from a blistering blue sky, waiting for rain in our beautiful Zimbabwe, until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.