People are not doing great. People are low. Everyone around you is battling things you have no idea of. This is why you and me need to be kind. We need to be compassionate. My observation over the past weeks has been that many people in Zimbabwe and beyond are facing battles they are not always willing to verbally express. However today my focus is on people in Zimbabwe- that is you and me.
Outside of the anxiety and uncertainty caused by Covid-19 which has come with a host of challenges; among them job losses, financial challenges, diminished earnings, separation from loved ones- the economy has really put many of us in a bit of a fix.
Prices are going up everyday. The cost of living is rising. The craziness around the use of the US dollar has made life really complicated for many of us; especially considering that many of us in the country do not earn these now much loved US dollars. Today even the guy who is selling mutsvairo on the street wants US dollars for his mutsvairo. The man who is seated by the corner selling firewood also wants these American dollars for his few logs. It does not matter that all he may have done is gone and chopped down some precious trees in the dead of the night; causing environmental degradation in the process; just so he get the firewood he will be selling.
Daily I wake up to dozens of messages on WhatsApp from different people who will be selling all sorts of things from chickens; eggs, pork, fish, pork to blankets, clothing or fresh produce. You will find it all on your phone as you wake up.
While there is nothing wrong with this kind of thing as it actually encourages competition and choice; for most of these bargains; I can bet you that the seller will charge you in US dollars. In fact now when you walk into any shop and ask for the price of a commodity (they are not bothering with price labels these days) you will first get the USD price. The local price is what you get after further probing.
What is even scarier is the rate that you will be given. For something selling for US$8; I was told the local price was ZW$1,000 just yesterday. After reading all about the weighted rate of the USD being 63; I was shocked at how US$8 could be ZW$1, 000. That puts the exchange rate these shops are using at around 125.
Can you imagine?
Now that we even have Harare City asking for parking fees in USD- you even wonder if you are going mad. The same applies with fuel. Many of us last got fuel for ZWD some months ago. Which is fine. But where are these US dollars meant to be coming from? Truth be told, many of us in the country continue to be paid in local money? This is the local money that is being walloped left, right and centre by some forces.
These are the days of our lives. Look at all the USD rentals that are demanded now even in high density suburbs and all the major costs that people have to bear with such as medical bills, and you will be filled with compassion. Things are tough.
With schools reopening end of this month; it is a wonder how parents are going to cope. As the children have been home; truth is most of them outgrew their uniforms. While schools may have been closed since end of March; it doesn’t mean the children stopped growing. Ask any parent how much those people have been eating while at home. So quite a number of them have grown taller and bigger and will most likely be in need of bigger shoes and uniforms once they head back to school. Where is the money? It will most likely be USD or some crazy price where the highest craziest rate is used.
While some of the children have been doing on-line learning; a lot of data has been used. In fact in this season we learnt that internet is actually a need and not a luxury as many children have been able to continue learning through internet platforms. Parents also have been working from home.
Wifi and data became essentials. But have you seen the price increases that some of these service providers effected starting 1 July? Through these increased; we realized that Zimbabwe certainly has the most expensive data in the world. For the charges that one of these service providers announced this past week are nothing short of shocking. In fact the charges are a whole salary to many professionals.
Throw in the food prices we are seeing in the shops, health care costs and everything else and it truly becomes too much.
And all this is facing a parent whose income has been diminished by not only Covid-19 but the difficult operating environment we are in where many business are just hanging in there.
Outside of those in formal employment we also know that, Zimbabwe has a lot of people who are self-employed. As we all rushed into our homes to keep safe during the first lockdown; can you imagine what happened to these people? Be kind.
For those few in formal employment we also know that incomes are quite low. This is both for the private and public sectors. In fact many people are literally just surviving outside of their incomes. You see one actually subsidizing their employer at times just to get to work. That is the reason why everyone has become a vendor of sorts; selling one thing or the other to try and remain above the water.
Today it is not unusual that you will find someone selling the same stuff that their boss is also selling. Everyone is out to sell something so they can survive. I was even joking asking: ‘if everyone is selling who will buy from the other?’ As much as one might say this shows how enterprising we have become as a people; this also shows that people are struggling. Be kind.
I can only imagine what that man who has to provide for his family including the extended family is going through in such times? I can only imagine what that widow and single mother is going through. I can only imagine what that grandmother who was left with a dozen children to look after is going through. I am thinking of the hairdresser, plumber, carpenter and electrician who has not been able to get those small jobs in people’s homes due to Covid-19. How are they doing? Be kind.
I am thinking of that contract worker whose contract had to be terminated because of Covid-19. Be kind.
I am thinking of those whose companies have not been operating since the first lockdown. Just think of restaurant staff and others? Be kind.. I am thinking of those who used to go out and bring in stuff from outside the country for resale? There are many instances. Everyone is going through something. Be kind. And help out where you can. This is the season.
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