The last time I went shopping it took me longer to pay for my few purchases than to shop for them. The swipe machines have a limit of Z$9 billion. So go figure if you want to buy a small packet of meat, which at today’s price is, Z$151 billion. Yesterday I bought a chicken for $26 billion. It looked rather strange. All bent and buckled but I bravely bought the bird needing a change from my usual beans and rice. I left it out last night to defrost and I must say that in the cold light of day it’s a bit of a sight. I threw it in the pot anyway.

The other day I took a turn around the shopping centre where I work. My first stop was the bank. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe limits us to a cash withdrawal of Z$25 billion a day. Clearly that doesn’t buy a hell of a lot. But anyway I queued for my allowance. Armed with my one bearer cheque — we don’t have bank notes here anymore — I went to forage in the nearby TM Supermarket. Just as well I had my Z$25 billion bearer cheque on me because there wasn’t any power and all the swipe machines were offline.

I wandered around the near empty aisles for a while checking out the near empty shelves. At the fresh meat counter a variety of Zimbabweans picked up and put down punnets of budget beef unable to afford even the bits of fat and bone trying to pass for a potential square meal. In an ungracious moment I was pleased to see both army and police personnel agonising over the prices. WH Auden came to mind:

hunger allows no choice
to the citizen or the police;
we must love one another or die.

I moved on to a little bakery. It’s impossible to buy anything at the bakery before 10am because the early morning bread queue is often 100 people long. To lift our spirits in the office I often buy a few pastries. When they’re available that is. We give them names to describe what’s going on at the time. Like, “in-doubt-27th June-presidential run-off” buns, for example.

Lucky for me some fat, chocolate-covered donuts were just out of the oven. I ordered five. On my left was an old white woman struggling to work out how many billions she had to pay for a French loaf. The till operator patiently counted the money for her. And on my right was a tatty tramp clutching a couple of slices of pink polony wrapped in plastic. He hollered “how much is a bun, how much is a bun?” At Z$1 billion each he turned on his heel. Later I walked past him sitting on the curb, not so patiently pulling apart his polony.

Read part 1 from yesterday’s Crikey here.


Meanwhile, here’s the latest on tomorrow’s one-candidate presidential run-off vote.

UN calls on Mugabe to abandon vote. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president, saw the last vestiges of international support slipping away yesterday after the United Nations Security Council, including fellow African states, unanimously condemned his campaign of violence against the opposition and called on him to abandon Friday’s run-off vote. In South Africa, Jacob Zuma, ruling party leader and the country’s likely next president, said the situation in Zimbabwe “has gone out of hand, out of control”. He said South Africa could no longer support the actions of Mr Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF. — Harvey Morris, Financial Times

Robert Mugabe offered last twig of an olive branch. As Zimbabwe hurtled towards its sham presidential election, Morgan Tsvangirai emerged from hiding yesterday with a message for his arch enemy: negotiate now, or never. In a telephone interview from the Dutch Embassy, Mr Tsvangirai told The Times that the time for talking would be over if President Mugabe went ahead with the vote tomorrow. “Negotiations will be over if Mr Mugabe declares himself the winner and considers himself the president. How can we negotiate?” he said. — Catherine Philip and Jan Raath, Times Online

Leak reveals ruthless strategy to bomb and murder until election. The ruling party in Zimbabwe has a detailed plan to murder opposition polling agents, bomb polling stations and march the electorate to the ballot box under armed guard to ensure an emphatic victory for Robert Mugabe in tomorrow’s uncontested presidential run-off … The notes, leaked from a JOC meeting late last week, include instructions to kill opposition MPs, for death squads to stuff ballot boxes in rural areas and the prevention of any rallies by the opposition. — Daniel Howden, The Independent

Voice of protest. It was a long time in coming, and many will think he should have gone further. But Nelson Mandela’s condemnation in London yesterday evening of the violence disfiguring Zimbabwe is no less welcome for all that. It has become clear this week that the mood among African leaders towards Robert Mugabe has changed irrevocably. For years, they turned a blind eye to the Zimbabwean President’s brutalisation of his own people because Mr Mugabe was, after all, a hero of the African struggle for independence from white colonial rule. — The Independent

Fear grows in Zanu PF as officials interrogate top MDC man. The arrest and interrogation of the second most senior opposition official in Zimbabwe has exposed divisions and paranoia within Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF that indicate important elements of the ruling party believe the government may soon collapse … Biti’s account [of the interrogation] would suggest that while Zanu PF projects a powerful monolithic front to the outside world, there is a realisation in some quarters that the administration is doomed whatever the outcome of Friday’s widely discredited election and that a deal with the opposition would have to be made. — zwnews.com

Peter Fray

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