Yet another shortage

25 10 2008

We are conditioned to shortages in Zimbabwe but this was one I could have done without.

Yesterday was pay day for my labour force and patience and understanding are not qualities they have in abundance if at all. OK, so I was a day late but I’d spent most of the day installing a new borehole pump and motor and having had to fork out US$275 for switchgear that was worth about $75 and endure most of the day in the blazing October sun my patience was in short supply too. I would have thought that as we’d agreed to pay them in hard currency and goods (food, soap and other essentials) they would have been feeling more than a bit secure and grateful. Apparently not. They wanted the money and they wanted it now – explaining that it was not going to devalue between now and Monday met with determined misunderstanding (going from multiple zeros to double digits did not help either). The sticking point was this; I did not have the exact change to pay them, so could they not wait until I could find it? Apparently not. Harsh words were exchanged and a strike threat made. I was more than happy that they go on strike – they would not get paid for work not done and we are not exactly busy. It is the first time I have seen the senior foreman angry. Eventually everyone dispersed and I came home and fumed. This morning I decided that we would just have to pay to the nearest round figure and so be it if we owed them a few dollars or they owed us. I had to use US dollars and where they were not enough, South African rand which fortunately convert at 10 to the US dollar. This is all highly illegal of course as we are not officially allowed to deal in forex and the Revenue Authority could crucify me if they felt like it. It is of little consolation that “everyone is doing it” but therein lies the reason for the shortage of small foreign currency denominations; they are all keeping them back for just this purpose! Go to a supermarket with too big a denomination and you will be refused service or asked to buy additional goods.

I asked my friend Terry the other day how he thought the forex was physically coming into the country. He assumed that it was by courier – people coming in to visit their relatives. It would never make it past the Postal system! I guess that means that we will be short for the foreseeable future as it will always be too little because we produce so little of anything that generates forex so we are going to be dependent on the couriers.

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One response

28 10 2008
Big Blister

Sounds like a v frustrating and scary situation – glad it was “defused”. Does the country have enough tourist couriers to supply anywhere near enough forex….?

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