The inflation diaries: Galloping price rises and shortages of fuel are reviving painful memories of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe
By Lungelo Ndhlovu
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, July 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Gerald Moyo works as a security guard in Zimbabwe's second-biggest city, but inflation running at almost 200% forced him to find an entrepreneurial sideline - reselling sweet potatoes he buys in from the other side of the country.
"What I earn is only enough for food and paying utilities. This way I'm able to raise school fees for my children," said Moyo, 38, who has five children and earns 30,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($79) per month from his job in Bulawayo.
He buys sweet potatoes, a local staple, in bulk from Chipinge - hundreds of miles to the east - and then supplies them to local traders at a Bulawayo market.
Surging food and fuel prices have revived memories of the hyperinflation that plagued the southern African nation in the late 2000s, sparking labour unrest and prompting the central bank to start selling gold coins this month.
Read more: The Inflation Diaries series
Zimbabwe abandoned its inflation-ravaged dollar in 2009, opting instead to use foreign currencies, mostly the U.S. dollar. The government reintroduced the local currency in 2019, but it has rapidly lost value again.
That has led to widespread shortages of imported essentials, including fuels and food, which have been exacerbated by the impact of the Ukraine war and fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Bulawayo's Pelandaba West suburb, Cephas Chogugudza 32, opens his small shop every day at 6 a.m., selling Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to customers who use the fuel for heating and cooking.
He has had plenty of ups and downs since he opened the business four years ago.
The pandemic was "a tough time" and his sales fell "lower and lower day-by-day", he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine brought new problems as gas supplies were disrupted, exacerbating existing shortages.
"Before the Ukraine crisis, I was able to sell two-three tanks a day without any challenges. But now I can't grow my business because of the gas shortages. I have to spend time in long queues waiting for gas to be delivered," Chogugudza said.
"Prices rise unexpectedly. Things are just changing without any notice, transport costs, fuel ... this is affecting us small businesspeople," he added.
The war has also led to shortages and surging prices for basic goods including cooking oil and grains, as well as fertiliser - potentially denting Zimbabwean farmers' yields.
"Such global developments include increases in the international prices of oil, gas, fertiliser and cooking crude oil, products of which Russia and Ukraine are major producers," Christopher Kamba, a spokesperson for the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, said in a statement.
The situation is particularly dire for the poorest Zimbabweans, including those without a job. Unemployment stood at 19.9% in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to the national statistics agency.
Unemployed Bulawayo resident Meli Nkiwane, 26, said he had lost hope for Zimbabwe having better economic prospects, citing the hardships people face every day as a result of soaring prices.
"Now $1 is not enough for two trips to and from town because the price of Kombi (minibus) fares has gone up due to the runaway inflation," he said.
($1 = 378.0000 Zimbabwe dollars)
Explore our interactive map below for more stories about the human impact of the cost-of-living crisis in our three-part series on The Inflation Diaries
More from Part Two of The Inflation Diaries series:
(Reporting by Lungelo Ndhlovu; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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