Zimbabwe inflation takes a nose dive

Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate zoomed to 11,2 million percent in June, state media reported yesterday amid a ruinous political crisis, which is exacerbating the economy's meltdown.

''Zimbabwe's annual rate of inflation surged in June to 11,2 million percent," The Herald newspaper said, adding: "It gained 9035045,5 percentage points from the May rate of 2233713,4 percent."

But everyone agrees that the government estimate is a fraction of the real figure.

"The actual figure could be high as 40 million percent in June," said independent economist John Robertson.

"The actual figure for July could be as high as 300 millionpercent, while for August it could be 600 million percent," he added.

Once hailed as a model economy and a regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe's fortunes have nosedived since veteran ruler Robert Mugabe seized white-owned farms and handed them over to landless blacks, often with no farming skills.

The currency, once on a par with the British pound, is in free fall; unemployment is pegged at a staggering 80 percent; food and essential goods are in short supply and most people go hungry.

A protracted power tussle between the iron-fisted Mugabe and the opposition - which shows few signs of being resolved - has added to the woes and the hunger of the common man.

In the face of such adversity, many have resorted to ingenious ways to ensure their next meal.

Mike Bvunzawabaya, a security guard at a large Harare supermarket, says he often buys a loaf of bread at the official price of Z$8 then resells it for Z$120.

"At least I am not stealing from anyone," he says, justifying the thriving sideline trade of 15 to 20 loaves he resells every day.

In one Zimbabwean village, people have turned to barter, exchanging a bar of soap for maize, apart from cutting down on meals.

Villagers are refusing to accept cash as they cannot afford bus fares to travel to the shops - and they also fear the money will be worthless before they even arrive. Sapa-AP