Inflation-hit Zimbabweans find part-time jobs to survive

Gerald Moyo works as a security guard in the second largest in Zimbabwe citybut inflation, reaching almost 200%, forced him to find a side business – reselling the sweet potatoes he buys on the other side of the country.

“What I earn is only enough for food and utility bills. This way I can increase my children’s tuition,” said Moyo, 38, who has five children and earns Z$30,000 (about R1,322) a month from his job in Bulawayo.

He buys sweet potatoes, a local staple, in bulk from Chipinga, hundreds of miles to the east, and then delivers them to local merchants in the Bulawayo market. Rising food and fuel prices have revived memories of the hyperinflation that gripped the country in the late 2000s, sparking labor unrest and prompting the central bank to start selling gold coins this month.

In 2009, Zimbabwe abandoned its inflation-hit dollar, opting instead to use a foreign currency, mainly the US dollar.

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The government reintroduced the local currency in 2019, but it rapidly depreciated again. This has led to widespread shortages of essential imports, including fuel and food, exacerbated by the aftermath of the war in Ukraine and the effects of the Covid pandemic.

Cephas Chogugudza 32, in the western suburb of Bulawayo, Pelandaba, opens its small shop every day at 6 am, selling LPG to customers who use the fuel for heating and cooking. He has had many ups and downs since he opened his business four years ago. The pandemic has been a “tough time” and its sales have been falling “lower and lower every day,” he said.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine brought new problems as gas supplies were interrupted, exacerbating existing shortages.

“Before the Ukrainian crisis, I could sell two or three tanks a day without any problems. But now I cannot develop my business due to lack of gas. I have to spend time in long queues waiting for gas delivery,” Chogugudza said.

“Prices are rising unexpectedly… transportation costs, fuel… it’s affecting us small businesses,” he added.

The war has also led to shortages and skyrocketing prices for basic commodities, including vegetable oil and grains, as well as fertilizer, which could reduce the productivity of Zimbabwean farmers.

“Such global events include rising global prices for oil, gas, fertilizers and edible crude oil, the main producers of which are Russia and Ukraine,” said Christopher Kamba, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Consumer Council.

The situation is especially dire for the poorest Zimbabweans, including the unemployed. Unemployment in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 19.9%, according to the National Statistics Agency.

Meli Nkiwane, a 26-year-old unemployed resident of Bulawayo, said he had lost hope for an improvement in Zimbabwe’s economic outlook, citing rising prices.

– Reuters Thompson Foundation.