Sep 28, 2006 2:01 pm


Peta Thornycroft reports from Harare:

The middle classes are getting zapped. Seventeen shopkeepers and supermarket managers appeared in the Harare Magistrate's Court this week accused of either over charging or failing to display prices.

So one man, in a suit, was found guilty for marking up a packet of sugar by .02 pence beyond the controlled price. There are another 500 waiting to be processed through the court.

Most of the middle classes have stood by during the last six years of political and economic upheavals, now they are getting arrested, are forced to hire lawyers, and have to go through the indignity of the processes at Harare's smelly Magistrate's Court.

The government believes if you subject certain essential groceries to price control, then shopkeepers will obey them. Actually what happens is that those items disappear from the shops because the controlled price is way, way below cost.

After all inflation is the highest in the world, 12,00 percent, and rising up to probably 4,000 percent next year according the International Monetary Fund.

One shopkeeper quipped that one day Zimbabwe would get leaders who could use calculators. Don't hold your breath. President Robert Mugabe is going to keep himself in power at least until 2010.

This old cartoon has yet to lose its bite:

It is one of the saddest African stories as it all began with so much good will. Mugabe used to be the poster boy of the home rule movement that drove Britain out of Rhodesia which was the most affluent and self sufficient nation in Africa. Today it is a shambles...famine, AIDS, corruption and rampant crime are the rule. And, incidentally, Zimbabwe has one of the most remarkable constitutions in all the former British colonies.

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