Zimbabwe's billionaires face daily struggle to make ends meet
Soaring inflation has made even billionaires to struggle in their daily life in Zimbabwe. The ludicrously high inflation rates and food shortages have helped contribute to factors that have seen the southern African nation go from a regional breadbasket to an economic basket case. Bank clerk People having monthly salaries of a hundred billion Zimbabwean dollars are also unable to live their life.
The prices at Dzidzai Guti's makeshift stall can seem eye-popping, with rotting oranges, a pack of cigarettes and bananas fetching as much as 250 million Zimbabwean dollars. But the 27-year-old gardener struggles. He and his wife, who works as a maid, live in a room in the back of his boss's house and combine breakfast and lunch to save money.
He runs the stall -- nothing more than a table top balanced on bricks -- to supplement his income in a country with the world's highest inflation rate and major food shortages.
"I am supposed to work in the mornings in the garden and rest in the afternoon, but I don't have the luxury to rest," he says.
"It's hard, but I would starve if I didn't do that."
Zimbabweans had been hoping for an end to the economic freefall ahead of the country's presidential elections, with the first round held on March 29 and the run-off on Friday.
But with the opposition leader pulling out of the race days ahead of the run-off and President Robert Mugabe pushing ahead with the vote anyway, essentially giving himself a victory by default, those hopes now seem slim.
The ludicrously high inflation rates and food shortages have helped contribute to factors that have seen the southern African nation go from a regional breadbasket to an economic basket case.
Even those who might otherwise live comfortably have been impacted.
Bank clerk Gladys Dawanyi has a monthly salary of a hundred billion Zimbabwean dollars, but she doubts if it will last until her next payday.
Skyrocketing inflation, officially at more than 165,000 percent but believed to be many times higher, makes it virtually impossible to know how much the currency is worth in dollar or euro terms.
"I am not even sure if I will be able to come to work until the end of the month because the price of transport will most likely go up again," she says from her office in an upmarket section of the capital.
"In another country, earning this kind of money, I would be very rich, but here life is an everyday battle."
In 2004, she bought a house in a middle-class suburb for an amount that will not buy bread today and could afford to take her family on holiday.
Less than fours years on, she has been relegated to one of the country's millions of poor billionaires who are perpetually playing catch up with galloping prices.
At least 80 percent of the population now lives below the poverty line, often skipping meals and walking or cycling to work in order to stretch their incomes to the next payday.
Critics blame the downturn on policies instituted by Mugabe's government, especially a controversial land reform programme begun at the turn of the decade which led to the seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.
The programme saw some 4,000 farms expropriated by the state, and critics argue it resulted in some of the country's most productive land being handed to people with no previous farming experience or ruling party cronies.
Apart from spending long hours looking for or queuing up for scarce commodities like sugar, cooking oil and the staple cornmeal, Zimbabweans increasingly find themselves without jobs.
Some industries which used to run 24-hour shifts have cut production hours or pulled down the shutters.
Mugabe says the economic troubles stem from targetted sanctions imposed on him and his inner circle by the European Union and the United States following presidential elections in 2002 which were judged by Western observers to be "fundamentally flawed."
Best Doroh, an economist with financial firm Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group, says the economic conditions will worsen if the election further enflames the political crisis.
"Increasing political and country risk will trigger significant capital flight and investor withdrawals," Doroh said. "No market will be immune to such a situation."
Guti, the stall owner, isn't optimistic. He and his wife are living in the room behind his employer's home because they can't afford the bus fare to travel back and forth from their house in Murehwa outside Harare.
"I was hoping the election in March would bring change, but it does not look like things will improve anytime soon."