The whale in the swimming pool

cartoonZimbabwean-born Hope Burnes (66), has lived in the same small town for more than 40 years. This is a personal account of how she goes about her business in a collapsed economy.I don't know if the dollarisation of the economy has killed inflation or not. It's beyond me.



But it has certainly killed the Zimbabwe dollar. Apart from money from relatives living outside of Zimbabwe, and dabbling in admin services, how do I manage? I have had to become street-smart.d in the Financial Mail and used with permission.

For example, I needed Z$100 billion last week to pay my telephone account. But my bank, presumably under instruction from the Reserve Bank, will not let me withdraw more than Z$5billion/ week. However, because of conflicting rules, I cannot draw less than Z$1 trillion at a time.I sold my mango crop for Z$2billion/ mango. I have a mango plantation of one tree, and I have a borehole.

To put you in the picture, during most of January our town had severe water cuts. Along with my borehole, I have a long hosepipe. I popped the hose over the garden wall and everyone filled receptacles of every colour and kind. The water was given freely – but the bonus for me was that I had a customer base for my budding mango empire – synergy indeed.

After three days of brisk trade, I could pay my phone account.

Like a whale in a swimming pool, the Zimbabwe dollar is far too big, cannot be ignored and no-one wants it, especially with water shortages. This has taught me a new skill. I can now deal in four currencies – rand, US dollar, pula and pound. It’s the Zimbabwe dollar that does my head in.

Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono has made an announcement on the currency, but I don’t understand how it works.

My grandson, a text-master of some fame, asked me for US$5 for airtime the other day, and I gave it to him with hardly a second thought. I would have had a heart attack if he had asked me for its Z$250 trillion equivalent.

Shopping is so much better now that the shops are allowed to trade in forex. Competition has brought down prices.

A litre of petrol has dropped from US$1,80 last August to US70c. My ageing Sunny vehicle had an orgasm when I filled up my tank for the first time in ages. Unfortunately, she was so excited that one of her wheels went flat and I had to call my brother and son-in-law to rescue me.

I didn’t think at this juncture of life that size mattered. But I’m becoming an expert at spotting big heads and won’t consider a small one. You see, you get US dollars printed with “big heads” and “small heads”. Shops won’t accept the “small heads” and neither will I. And because the “heads” issue makes everyone paranoid, there is simply no change available. Therefore, when you shop, you either spend exactly the right amount or go home bearing change in the form of packets of soup, cheap suckers or crisps redolent of MSG.

I love my doctor, but she charges me US$40 for a consultation. If she thinks it’s all in my mind, she gives me a hug.

You may think that I have trivialised a serious situation but when you get to my age, you either swim with the whales or drown. – First publishe

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