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Empty pockets and empty tummies

Zimbabwe has been impoverished after incomes and savings lost 85% of their value. Sanctions didn’t do this.
Image: Shutterstock

There’s nothing nicer than sitting outside these early mornings when it’s cool and quiet and the weavers are building, breaking and rebuilding their nests and hanging upside down flapping and quivering, trying to entice females to come and inspect their constructions. In the Mulberry tress the red winged louries (or turacos) are fidgeting and chattering as they feast on the last of the purple berries.

Outside already the human foot traffic has begun: the first sounds of people going looking for water after days with dry taps. Ironically the only wells left with water are at the illegal houses built on the wetlands here; we join the dots and keep waiting and waiting for action that never comes.

Zimbabwe’s Consumer Council recently said that the present low-income family budget needed for a month is Z$21 000 (US$260). It might not sound like a lot, but it’s the equivalent of six months of a civil servant’s salary.

Civil servants who were earning US$500 a month 18 months ago, are today earning the Zimbabwe dollar equivalent of around US$40 a month.

It’s a simple, horrifying reality that we keep on shaking our heads in disbelief at: our entire country lost 85% of their earning ability, pensions and savings when the Zimbabwe government converted all our US dollars to Zimbabwe dollars in March 2019.

The massive crisis this caused to everyone’s lives crippled the health sector first and now, as schools begin re-opening after Covid-19 lockdowns, education is in the spotlight.

Education crisis

School fees for a nearby urban government primary school have just been approved by the ministry; a boarding student will pay Z$25 000 (US$308) for the six weeks remaining in the current school year.

A little poppet walking home along a dusty roadside, where there are more potholes than tar, was in his school uniform (khaki shorts and shirt, white socks, black shoes and a bright blue jersey). The temperature was close to 30°C when we passed each other.

“Hello! How is school?” I asked

“Fine,” he replied, the one word answer familiar to any parent anywhere in the word.

“Are your exams OK?”

He shrugged and looked down at his feet, kicking dust.

His silence spoke volumes. Had he gone to school on an empty tummy I wondered? Was there anything in his lunch box?

He is one of the children who’ve gone back to school to write end-of-year exams – despite the fact that he’s been out of school since mid-March and hasn’t had a single day of teaching, learning or even reading since then.

I didn’t ask him why he was wearing his blue school jersey in the heat, because I knew the answer would be that his mum had told him he better make sure that he didn’t come home without his jersey and keeping it on was the only way to make sure he didn’t lose it. A school jersey for a primary school child is US$35, almost all of a civil servant’s entire monthly salary.

A dad I met told me his child’s rural school wanted US$20 school fees for his daughter for the coming six weeks, plus US$20 for the whole of last term when the school was closed, plus US$20 for ‘masks and hand sanitisers,’ plus items on a grocery list. He didn’t know how or if he should even try and send his daughter to school for the coming six weeks: there’s no water at the school so he wonders how it would even be possible for his child to wash her hands.

Since schools started reopening there have been widespread stay-aways of teachers who, like the doctors and nurses before them, say they are incapacitated and cannot afford to go to work while their salaries are only worth 15% of their former value. Schools without teachers, parents who can’t afford fees – which are ten times more than their monthly earnings – and children who’ve been playing in the streets, finding firewood and carrying water for half a year is a very sad state of affairs in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe government announced this week that it would provide the Zimbabwe dollar equivalent of US$500 to the families of civil servants who die. The announcement was met with scorn and contempt; the Secretary General of the Progressive Teachers Union said : “It’s very unfortunate that the government is planning more on our funerals than our present conditions of living. True compassion will be seen when you start paying a living salary to our members.”

This weekend the Zimbabwe government is holding an Anti Sanctions Day, supported by countries in the SADC region, calling for the removal of targeted sanctions. There are only 141 individuals and companies on this targeted sanctions list. Last year the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols said: “They are on the list for good reason. These are people who have engaged in corruption, human rights abuses and undermined Zimbabwe’s democratic process.”

Sanctions on 141 individuals and companies pale into insignificance when an entire nation has been impoverished after our savings, pensions and salaries lost most of their value when the government converted our US dollars to Zimbabwe dollars.

Sanctions didn’t do that to us.

Cathy Buckle is a Zimbabwean writer and blogger living in Marondera, Zimbabwe.

Copyright © Cathy Buckle

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COMMENTS   14

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Too bad to many South African’s will not be able to read this story. SAD

Sanctions didn’t do this to Zimbabwe. The voters did. The same thing that the voters are doing to SA.

(My comment will be removed)

The ANC government has come out in solidarity with their fellow liberation party business, ZANU-PF, by calling for an end to sanctions against Zimbabwe.

This despite the ANC knowing full well that the sanctions against the Zim leaders are not the cause of Zim’s economic meltdown.

That is how the ANC is damaging the lives of millions of Zimbo’s, who then stream over the border, to compete with our unemployed for jobs.

South Africans will face the same future when the ANC starts printing money to pay public sector and grants.

One of the biggest failings of Africa is that governments do not hold one another to account. It seems the ‘brother effect’ is such that it even covers the horrendous abuse (e.g. Zimbabweans) of ordinary Black people by their political masters. Then they (these same governments) go and preach to others about BLM. The mind boggles.

I never read these articles. Cathy has a lot to say about Zimbabwe and to what end? This provides no financial value what so ever for me as a reader.
if she said, in order to prevent scenarios such as xyz that occurred in Brazil, Zimbabwe and abc. open an offshore account sure. that would benefit me.

secondly the people affected by these super crisis that Cathy speaks about dont read moneyweb, in fact they dont care at all.

ironically I went over to Zimbabwe, spent time in the affluent areas and the low/ no income areas – and man do these people know how to deal with struggles. what a positive up beat populace. times are tough but thats how it is every where.. when was the last time you checked the poverty levels in china.
this smacks of border line smear campaigns.

If it is so bad over there what are yous till doing there Cathy find a new place to live.
tired of reading the same rhetoric from someone trying to get a seat at the stage / table.

anyway my opinion will probably be removed and I ll be banned.

You should.

You will see the parallels between SA and Zim in these articles. Also Cathy’s articles are showing SA’s own future, the way the ANC and EFF are going.

The economy of Zim affects SA’s in many different ways and the further implosion of that country affects your investments in SA (if any).

Also odd that you say you never read these articles from Cathy (at the start of your comment), but then end off saying “tired of reading the same rhetoric”

Apologies – Correction.
What I meant to say was I never read these articles in depth, pay attention, feel they have provided value.

I skim through these articles and by the end of the first para I cringe, look for her negativity and wonder why she hasn’t left this “awful” country

Wouldn’t a more objective manner be a cause and effect method?

So point number 1. Land appropriation had a direct impact on exports to woolies and crippled the economy. In South Africa a similar move could result in pick n pay closing down and costing x number of jobs.

My point is its always a sob story. No, this is how you avoid it etc. this is why in my honest opinion she is a poor author on the best of days.

its my opinion and not necessarily shared by the rest, so I accept that not everyone will share my opinion.

All self inflicted by the corrupt Zanu PF and friends and voters. With a lot of help from the corrupt ANC and EFF. That is the way of Africa. Poverty and the begging bowl.

The Zimbabwe populace got what they wanted when they endorsed and voted for uncle Bob. Not an ounce of sorrow over here.

Except they didn’t. Mugabe cheated his way to repeated election wins, with the approval of the ANC who tried to suppress the report that proved it.

End of comments.

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