Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The black market thrives in Zim


Tall, wearing neat jeans and a crisp black jacket, the 34-year-old carries a briefcase and looks like a businessman or shop owner. Sure, he's deeply religious and active in his church, but he has a motto in Zimbabwe's dog-eat-dog economy: Never give anything away for free.

When there is no meat in the shops, his wife and children eat meat. He has luxuries that none of his neighbors can afford: a laptop computer, satellite TV, a DVD player.

"You can only afford those things if you're a black market guy," he said. "They're not for people on salaries."

Most days, there's an air of anxiety in Zimbabwe's supermarkets. The freezer sections, once filled with meat and chicken, yawn emptily. The shelves where cornmeal, rice and bread used to be stacked are bare. But on other shelves, cakes, cookies, dog food and chocolate are piled up, at prices few people can afford.

When staples arrive, the anxiety turns to panic, and sometimes violence.

When people see a queue in Zimbabwe, they join it and ask questions later. According to local news reports, a queue to buy sugar snaking for 900 yards erupted into pandemonium in late July in the eastern town of Marondera. A security fence was toppled and a woman sustained a broken leg in the crush, before police with dogs were called. Days earlier, two people were seriously injured when a truck carrying cornmeal was mobbed in Bulawayo.

But business has never been so good for Shumba, who sells his goods secretly at night from his home, or delivers to special customers...."

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