|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
December, 2002, 11:56 GMT
Bleak Christmas in Zimbabwe
BBC News Online publishes a letter from Harare resident Jonah Gokova to his brother in the UK, in which he describes his Christmas preparations.
As we approach Christmas I know you are full of anxieties about spending your first Christmas away from home.
Without the family, I hope you will still have a wonderful Christmas in the UK.
For us in Zimbabwe, this will probably the worst Christmas since we achieved our national independence 22 years ago.
It is through Jesus Christ that we have experienced life in its fullness.
I am afraid that the message of "fullness of life" does not make sense for us in Zimbabwe today.
Let me share with you how I am preparing to spend Christmas without you.
First of all, I have to prepare a shopping list of things that are essential to Christmas.
I am mindful of the over-commercialisation of Christmas and my preparations for Christmas have always been modest.
The current level of inflation (at 175.5%) has already made life unbearable for many people in this country even before we talk about Christmas.
A high level of inflation is one thing but the real problem is that basic commodities are just not available.
Long queues are now the order of the day.
We spend long hours queuing for bread, salt, sugar, soft drinks, paraffin, petrol, diesel etc.
Only two days ago I joined a petrol queue at 9:45pm and only got to the pump at 5:30am.
At least I left with a full tank to justify my absence from home for the whole night.
And if this full tank runs out, I might be forced to walk 14km to church on Christmas Day.
We have not had bread at home for the last week.
I stopped taking sugar many years ago but those who must have their tea with sugar are in trouble.
There is no sugar in the shops.
One has to be prepared to join the queue and that might mean spending many hours under the hot sun.
I have promised many friends and relatives that they can expect a loaf of bread from me as a Christmas present.
The scarcity of bread has made this commodity so valuable to qualify for a Christmas present.
The many relatives and friends you know who always spend Christmas at their rural homes will not be able to enjoy that pleasure this Christmas.
Fuel is in serious short supply, constantly forcing travel costs upwards.
Mother, brother and sisters are doing well under the conditions.
But for all of us, this is just Christmas. It will not be a "merry" Christmas.
December, 2002, 11:21 GMT
Zimbabwe runs short of banknotes
After years shortages of fuel and basic commodities, Zimbabwean's now face a lack of banknotes, the state-run Herald newspaper has reported.
The paper said queues outside banks and cash machines were now as common-place as at petrol stations and supermarkets.
Bank officials said reserves of the 500 Zimbabwe dollar note - the largest denomination worth about 33 US cents - had run out due to high demand before the Christmas break.
Zimbabwe has failed to control runaway inflation and the black market currency exchange rate is about Z$1,500 to the dollar compared with the official rate of Z$55 to the dollar.
The newspaper also said the lack of foreign currency reserves meant the government could not import paper to print new banknotes.
Zimbabwe is in the grip of its worst economic crisis since the end of white rule 22 years ago.
Official inflation, calculated on a limited basket of goods, is 175% but the rate is probably much higher due to the black market which is outside the government's price controls.
President Robert Mugabe's land redistribution policies have been blamed by many analysts for the economic crisis.
About half the population reportedly face starvation in the coming months after government seizures of commercial farms caused a steep fall in production in what was once known as the bread basket of Africa.
One bit of good news was the lifting of a ban on cheap Zimbabwean imports by Zambia on Sunday.
Zambia had been overrun with cheap goods by traders using US dollars to buying in Zimbabwe and then re-sell locally, undercutting Zambian producers.
But the Zambian government has introduced duties to protect its local industries.
Zambia's commerce minister Bates Namuyamba said all imports from Zimbabwe would be valued on Zimbabwe's black market exchange rate as opposed to the official exchange rate.