Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Living in Harare Is like Being a Frog Boiled Alive'; A Thin Veneer of Patience: Residents of Harare outside a Bank. an IT Consultant Said Wealthier People Used Black Market Currency Dealers to Avoid Queues of Up to Three Hours

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'Living in Harare Is like Being a Frog Boiled Alive'; A Thin Veneer of Patience: Residents of Harare outside a Bank. an IT Consultant Said Wealthier People Used Black Market Currency Dealers to Avoid Queues of Up to Three Hours

Article excerpt

AT a packed hotel bar in Harare, Sipho, the barman, glances left andright, then leans conspiratorially over the counter. "Change is coming toZimbabwe," he whispers. "I feel this strange and wonderful new feeling in mybones. It's called hope." He looks around furtively. "But also, there's fear.And as long as Old Bob is in charge, there is very good reason to fear."Outside in palm-lined Samora Machel Avenue, two security guards huddle togetherto discuss the question that's got the worldand Zimbabweansriveted: what's next? "The roulette ball is still rolling," the tall one tellsme. "We hope it will fall to our advantage," the shorter one adds. When I ask,which way is that? They snort: "It's obvious." But they won't be drawn further.

With few exceptions, everyone here is guarded. Partly it's because criticisingor making jokes about president Robert Mugabe, 84, could get you beaten up andarrested. But also, history tells them that this is far from over and Mugabewill not go without a fight.

With the official results of the presidential vote expected any day now, thesigns are that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will be denied an outrightmajority win and that he will face Mugabe in a run-off. Despite Zanu-PF losingcontrol of parliament to Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, by 114seats to 94, the uncertainty and swirl of rumour is set to continue .

In Samora Machel Avenue, the main thoroughfare, I talked to people from beggarsto bankers. The first thing that strikes you are the endless queues and thethin veneer of patience. Paul Tunmer, 26, a white IT consultant, points to thelong line of people running out of Barclays and around the corner. He says:"Living here makes regular guys like myself into criminals. It's illegal forlocals to carry foreign currency, but wealthier people have all got theirblack-market dealer because otherwise you spend your life in a queue trying todraw Zimbabwean dollars, only to stand in more queues for three hours to buygroceries.

"Inflation is a mind-boggling 100,000 per cent, which means that prices doubleevery three days. When I order cash, I talk in code: 'bushes' mean dollars,'queens' are pounds, 'boerewors' is rands. Hopefully soon I can conduct my lifein an above board fashion." Once a month, Paul and his wife drive eight hoursover the border and do a big shop in South Africa, he says. "In the last fiveyears, a third of the [12 million] population have fled. If Mugabe concedes,man, there'll be parties in the street. Educated people, black and white, willreturn. This is a great country, with great people, but to be great again weneed to see the back of Mugabe." Godfrey Ncube, 28, an electrical engineer, haslived his entire life under Mugabe. He is a consultant for ZESA, themuch-maligned Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority. …

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