Rural folk suffer as cash shortage hits hard

Although those living in urban areas now have a few dollars in their pockets, it is a different story for Maria Basikiti a villager in the remote area of Kazozo in Nyanga North.

Maria Basikiti: I came across a US$1 note once, but I do not even know what other denominations look like.
Maria Basikiti: I came across a US$1 note once, but I do not even know what other denominations look like.

Widowed with three children, she is one of many villagers who rarely sees a US dollar and battles to feed themselves and their families.

“Foreign currency is not readily available here. I came across a $1 note once, but I do not even know what other denominations look like. As a result I have resorted to barter trade,” Basikiti told this reporter.

“Due to the remoteness of our area and the non-availability of foreign currency, business people have been reluctant to set up shops and it seems that we are living in an another world where money does not exchange hands.”

The government adopted a multi-currency system in 2009 to curb runaway inflation.

The business people in Kazozo said lack of capital was a major handicap.

“Although things seem to have normalized, especially in the urban areas, it’s still difficult for us to make ends meet because we lost our capital during the Zim dollar era to inflation,” said Norman Chetsanga who used to own a diesel-powered grinding mill and a tuck shop at his homestead.

Chetsanga said banks were hesitant to open up branches as there was no business.

“Banks demand security and collateral which we don’t have. We call upon government through the Ministry of Finance to establish a fund to assist distressed small business in growth points and business centres in remote areas,” added Chetsanga.

The working class includes few teachers at Kazozo Primary School.

“We get our salaries from Nyanga and Mutare, and do all our shopping There. We don’t keep any money with us because we cannot buy anything here,” said a teacher. Small-scale business operators from Mutare, about 250 km away, and Nyanga have taken advantage of the poverty-stricken villagers and flooded the area with basic commodities in exchange for maize and livestock among other things.

“Before he died my husband left 14 cattle and 10 goats for me, but now I have only seven cows and four goats because of barter trade. I paid livestock for schools fees for my children and their upkeep,” said Basikiti.

She said a cow was exchanged for five cartons of 12x 2 litres cooking oil plus two cartons of 24 bars of laundry soap.

A goat is worth 6x2litres of cooking oil or a carton of green bar laundry soap.

Some traders barter clothes and fish in exchange of maize, beans, sunflowers and groundnuts. Others barter firewood for groceries.

Kenneth Mutiwekuziwa a firewood vendor said: “I always have my clients from Mutare who come to me with groceries and I give them firewood.”

But Chief Kazozo is against barter trading in his area. He told The Zimbabwean that many of his people were being short changed by traders.

He said the informal traders who had invaded the area were ripping off the desperate villagers who have no choice but to give in to their demands although they were a far cry from the market price for the commodities.

“The government should gazette the prices. These unscrupulous informal traders are ripping off villagers. I would like the police to come and arrest them before the villagers continue losing out,” said the angry chief.

“Times are hard for everyone and we are just trying to make ends meet, we buy the maize here at a lower price and resell at a profit to private millers in town. But at least we are serving the villagers by bringing the groceries at their door steps,” said George Shereni a trader from Mutare.

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