Shortages and profiteers abound

BY LITANY BIRD Dear Family and Friends, Writing a letter this week is no mean achievement, being able to send it is going to be another matter altogether. Since my letter seven days ago, we have had electricity cuts every day - at least once but sometimes twice and even three times a day the p

ower just goes off without warning and has resulted in 47 hours without electricity in my home town.

It is not unusual now, in the middle of the day, in the middle of summer to see smoke rising from gardens and chimneys in the suburbs as people cook food and boil water on open fires. When the power does come on there is no guarantee that it will stay on and so there is a frantic rush to cook the next meal, do the ironing, work on the computer or charge cellphones and batteries.

For businesses, these power cuts are diabolically bad news. Machines stop, engines and pumps go quiet, computers, ATM’s and tills are silent and only those who can afford generators are able to keep operating. Little shops which have only been surviving our 600% hyper-inflation by offering things like photocopying or computer services, are shuddering to a silent stop.

All around town this week the sight has been the same – workers and customers together, sitting outside on the pavements waiting for the electricity to come back on. You almost don’t need to ask what’s wrong now when you see a stationary queue, you just raise your eyebrows and someone either shrugs or shows empty hands and you know – no power.

As has become the norm in Zimbabwe, whenever there is a shortage of something, for whatever reason, you can guarantee that some fat cat is making money out of it.

In the last couple of months the price of small generators have soared from a few million to hundreds of millions and are out of reach of virtually everyone. Even more despicable though is the way the money-makers even turn on the poorest of the poor.

The price of candles has soared in the last fortnight as the power cuts have become more frequent and widespread. When you can find them, a packet of six locally made candles are now over a quarter of a million dollars.

To make life a little tougher this week have been water cuts which covered two full days and a telephone system just hanging on by a very thin and frayed thread. In the last seven days my telephone has worked for less than one hour in total. It pings incessantly, day and night, but there is no one there.

Lifting the receiver either leaves you listening to complete strangers having long and loud conversations or a rash of electronic buzzing, hissing and static but no dialling tone and no chance of making a call. Numerous reports and visits to the state owned telephone company have not achieved anything yet – they are overwhelmed with faults; a result of no money, no spare parts, very little maintenance and being run by a government in economic meltdown.

I do not know how soon I will be able to send this letter but will do so as soon as both electricity and telephone are working at the same time. Until next week, ndini shamwari yenyu.

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Post published in: Opinions

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