Food out of reach for poor in Zim

HARARE - Zimbabwe's once-deserted supermarkets are full again after the country reined in its world record hyperinflation. But there's no waiting at the tills since most people simply can't afford to buy anything.

"The shops are full but to us there is no difference because we cannot afford the goods ," said Marian Chituku, a 36-year-old mother of three, holding a loaf of bread outside a supermarket in the working class suburb of Chitungwiza, in the capital.

Chituku said her family eat dinner as their only meal to stretch her income from a vegetable stall in the township.

But things are different for the rich.

"You can get everything you want as long as you have money," said Josephine Marucchi from the posh Harare suburb of Mount Pleasant.

"It's different from last year when people had money and the shops were empty."

Last year supermarkets across Zimbabwe were empty as local manufacturers either closed or halved their capacity because of hyperinflation, which rendered the local currency unusable.

The shortages were exacerbated after the state ordered businesses to slash prices.

Things improved after long-serving President Robert Mugabe and his one-time rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, formed a unity government in February.

The local currency has been abandoned and import restrictions lifted, which has erased the hyperinflation estimated in multiples of billions last year.

Now prices, all in US dollars or SA rands, are declining, but more than half the population still depends on food aid.

"The major challenge is affordability," said Harare-based economist Prosper Chatambara.

Zimbabwe's biggest employer is the state , which pays workers only $100 a month while it tries to win global support for its plan to revive the economy.

Until the government finds a way to increase wages, the gap between rich and poor is unlikely to change. - Sapa-AFP