Magazine article New African

'When the Rich Catch a Cold, the Middle Class Sneezes': Mabasa Sasa Went into the Streets of Zimbabwe to Gauge Public Feeling about the Government's Clampdown on Price Increases. Generally, It Was Thumbs Up for the Government

Magazine article New African

'When the Rich Catch a Cold, the Middle Class Sneezes': Mabasa Sasa Went into the Streets of Zimbabwe to Gauge Public Feeling about the Government's Clampdown on Price Increases. Generally, It Was Thumbs Up for the Government

Article excerpt

The decision by the government of Zimbabwe to slash the prices of goods and services to 18 June 2007 levels--representing a 50% deduction across the board--has sharply divided the Zimbabwean public, largely along class and political lines as has become the norm in the Southern African nation.

In the month since the government reached its decision, what has become apparent is business owners and company managers have teamed up on one side in opposition to the price cuts. On the other end of the spectrum are ordinary workers and the peasantry who have largely been grateful for the timely relief.

This sharp divide has been best captured by the fact that some shop workers have actually been at the forefront of calling the price monitors' hotlines to report their belligerent employers.

Brian, a 29-year-old salesman at a shoe retail outlet in the city of Gweru said he welcomed the government directive designed to arrest inflation. "I could hardly afford to purchase some of the shoes I was selling myself but things are better now," said Brian, whose real name is being withheld to protect his job. "They are not yet great, they are still expensive, but at least I can now buy some of the shoes I'm supposed to sell daily.

"But then there's the problem of our managers telling us that our jobs are on the line because the company is not realising the profits they had expected. So that's the downside: I don't know if I will still have my job from one day to the next," he added.

The streets of Harare are a different sight these days. People now jostle to purchase goods at wholesale and retail outlets. Lunch hour queues at fast food outlets are longer than they have been in months, because prices have come down.

At one such outlet along Harare's First Street, Owen Taruza, an accountant at one of the country's leading commercial banks, said: "I think things are particularly bad when a professional worker like myself cannot afford to buy chicken or a burger for lunch. In that context, the government's move is laudable, but I still think that more has to be done to deal with Zimbabwe's economic problems."

Taruza suggested that perhaps the onslaught on overpricing had to be accompanied by a corresponding robust drive to increase exports as a means of improving the country's foreign currency reserves in addition to finding means to attract foreign investors. …

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