Monday, 28 May 2007

Making ends meet in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has the dubious honour of the highest rate of inflation in the world, making it very hard for its citizens to earn a living. A new report from IRIN gives three examples.

One is an ex-hotel manager who has moved to South Africa in order to buy essential goods and sell them in Zimbabwe. He left his job in a hotel in Harare because he was asked to take a pay cut when the tourist trade slumped. He now owns a house in South Africa and drives a Japanese car.

Within Zimbabwe three young journalists employed someone to help do their laundry and general house cleaning. They found her remarkably intelligent and a wonderful source of news stories. The mystery was solved one day at a road block when they spotted their helper in a police uniform. She has now left the police force and carries out domestic duties full time, earning seven times her previous salary.

More than 5,000 teachers failed to turn up at schools at the beginning of the last term. Amongst these is Mavis, who has turned from teaching to sex work in order to make ends meet. Although tourism is all but non-existent, there are still enough men able to afford her services. As a teacher her wages were about $7.50 a month, while the estimated minimum cost to support a family in Zimbabwe is $50 per month. She is now able to charge up to $12 a night.

I think the saddest sentence in the report came from Mavis: “I am an educated person and I know the hazards”. Education in Africa is so hard won, it really should not be wasted in this way.

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