Inflation-hit Zimbabweans forced to find side hustles to survive

by Lungelo Ndhlovu | @Luxy58 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 25 July 2022 09:45 GMT

Gerald Moyo (R) and Meli Nkiwane (L) pose next to one of his recent sweet-potatoes consignment at the Fifth Avenue Market in Bulawayo Central Business District, Zimbabwe, 9 July, 2022 Thomson Reuters Foundation/Lungelo Ndhlovu

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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.

Cephas Chogugudza tends to a gas cylinder weighing scale outside his Small-LPG Business at Phelandaba West High-Density Suburb in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 7 July, 2022 Thomson Reuters Foundation/Lungelo Ndhlovu

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.

Cephas Chogugudza poses for a photograph outside his Small-LPG Business at Phelandaba West High-Density Suburb in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 7 July, 2022. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Lungelo Ndhlovu

"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:

Brazilian small businesses struggle to survive as food prices rise

Interest rate hikes add to Polish families' inflation pains

Turkish households despair as inflation nears 80%

Tunisians struggle to buy basics as prices rise, economy crumbles

Rising costs leave Spaniards feeling isolated and anxious

(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)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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