Empty African breadbasket

A new shopping habit has emerged among Zimbabweans as the temporary euphoria of the buying goods and services at bargain prices turns into a nightmare.

A new shopping habit has emerged among Zimbabweans as the temporary euphoria of the buying goods and services at bargain prices turns into a nightmare.

Whole families are joining different queues at supermarkets and grocery shops, anticipating the delivery of basic commodities.

The windfall shoppers enjoyed has turned into an ordeal of enduring inordinate and agonizing hours in long queues for basic commodities such as bread, sugar and mealie-meal.

Instead of entering shops, family members hang around the streets, peering into alleyways to check whether a queue exists.

By 5am, Phillipa Mhlanga has joined the queue running at the back of one of the major supermarkets in Bulawayo

"I came here early but am not so sure I will get the sugar that most of us in this queue expected to be delivered today," the 32-year-old mother says.

Mhlanga says her three children were elsewhere in the city scouting for mealie-meal and bread queues.

The family meets at home in the evening to check on each member's success.

"We came here early but the queues had already stretched a block away," she says, cuddling a blanket round her baby to cover it from the morning chill.

Coming to town early to wait in the queues that have become a permanent feature of the city before shops open does not guarantee success.

Mhlanga's family, like most households, has to battle to get into town to hunt for basic commodities that have become hard to get.

Transport operators have withdrawn their vehicles from the roads citing erratic fuel supplies. They also cite the loss of income they risk bringing upon themselves if they complied with directives to charge stipulated fares as demanded by the police.

"It is even more difficult to get into town because there are no minibuses," she says.

"When they are available they charge a premium, saying they are covering the risks of being arrested by the police."

But what has alarmed economists and industrialists most is the loss of production as people spend most of their time in queues searching for commodities.

They point to the irony of a government exhorting Zimbabweans to increase production and generate foreign currency essential for its economic turnaround yet pronounce policies that disrupt industry and commerce.

"Production has to increase in order for goods to be available at affordable prices," says Callisto Jokonya, president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry

Jokonya says that while the government succeeded in capping rampant price increases, he doubts whether the price controls would help put food on Zimbabweans' tables. - CAJ News.

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