Friday, July 07, 2006

Busines is still good for some in Zimbabwe

HARARE, 6 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe may have the fastest shrinking economy in the world, but a small, well-connected elite appears immune to the hardships.Brian Murara, a salesman at a car dealership that imports and sells luxury vehicles, is doing well. "Although most of the vehicles that we sell are bought by companies, a significantly large number of our customers are individuals who walk into our showroom and buy any one of the latest all-terrain and sports vehicles."A former MP for the ruling ZANU-PF party, Philip Chiyangwa, last month purchased a twin-turbo Mercedes Benz S600 - supposedly the first of its kind in Africa - for a jaw-dropping US$130,000. Defending shelling out so much, he said: "I have to celebrate my success in business, and one of the ways of doing that is to buy the latest models of cars. The kind of business that I am in demands that I should dress in a certain style and drive a certain car."

An average salary in Zimbabawe is Zim$20 million (US$200), and last week the monthly cost of a basic food basket for a family of six jumped to Zim$60 million (US$600). A critical lack of foreign exchange means shortages of imported items, including medicines, schoolbooks, agricultural inputs and spare parts.

Chiyangwa, a nephew of President Robert Mugabe, rose from being a boxing and music promoter to head the black business empowerment Affirmative Action Group before winning a seat in parliament. He was detained last year on treason charges, after a string of arrests when a South African spy network was allegedly uncovered. Now he makes his money in real estate.A property consultant in the capital, Harare, told IRIN the upper end of the real estate market was booming. "Our expensive houses are generally in the [Zim]$15 billion [US$150,000] category, which is where we are getting most of our business," said Vimbai Sithole. "In a good month we can get as many as five clients buying super-luxury houses worth more than [Zim]$50 billion [US$500,000]."......

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