New money

19 12 2012

“Can I also get one of those?” I asked the teller as she brought out an in-the-plastic brick of new $1 notes.

“Of course” she replied, somewhat surprised.

I was getting the Christmas wages from the bank and as usual the breakdown was being a bit problematic, though not on the smaller denominations which is the usual issue. $1 notes are notoriously disgusting in Zimbabwe and quite frequently fall apart. Most people offload the worst notes at the toll gates on the roads as they will always take them rather than have to look for change. I try to get 2 for 1 with the occasional new note that I have but it has yet to get any more success than the occasional laugh. So when faced with an opportunity to get an entire $100 dollars of $1 notes I could not pass it up. Maybe it is the approaching shopping period which is already clogging the local shopping malls and the banking industry is actually being proactive (to use a ghastly cliché). It could also be the Finance Ministry which is run by and ex-lawyer and not part of the ruling ZANU-PF. Maybe there is hope…

Unusual enough for a photograph!

Unusual enough for a photograph!

A trail of plastic and paper

28 10 2012

I have issues with plastic bags that are given out with just about every purchase in Zimbabwe (supermarkets, to their everlasting credit, are the exception to this statement – they charge for theirs). Harare is no longer the clean city that it was in the ’80s and early ’90s and I drive past a  rubbish tip on the way home from town; plastic bags litter the fences, trees and the farm fields surrounding it. It is especially bad when the wind is south-east and when it rains there is a distinct vomit-like smell from the dump. So when the teller at the bank told me that they were no longer accepting personal withdraws on paper slips from the beginning of next year I did a silent mental cheer. Only debit cards will be allowed. I suspect this has more to do with reducing their workload than saving the environment, but it’s a start.

The attitude at the local hardware store that afternoon was a little different.

“I don’t want a plastic bag thank you”.

“Are you sure?” the shop assistant asked dubiously. EVERYBODY takes plastic bags if they are GIVEN them.

“Yes, I am quite sure” I insisted.

“Will you be able to get your stuff to the car?” he persisted. The car was right outside the shop door so I stood my ground.

The next stop was  to pay for some air tickets to Cape Town over Christmas and New Year. The money was counted and I watched incredulously as the agent printed out the tickets; two pages for each! E-tickets no less!

“Oh, would you have preferred it as an email?” she asked when I remarked on the irony of e-tickets using so much paper.

“It’s a bit late for that” I muttered picking up the sheaf of papers.

It’s not just Zimbabwe that has trouble adapting to the electronic age. Earlier this month at London Gatwick airport in the UK I was checking in at the Emirates counter. I was very pleased with myself having done a check-in online and got my 2D bar code on my new smart phone. But nobody wanted to see it – they wanted to see the  e-ticket on paper!

Beans best before

21 10 2012

One can always get a different perspective on life from the vantage point of the toilet. I could see the remains of 2 cases of cans of beans under the spare bed in the spare room. They have been there a long time. I guess I bought them in 2008 when doing a shopping run to Johannesburg. That was the year of the crash of the Zimbabwe dollar. Food shortages abounded. The supermarket shelves were full  of very little spread out to make it look like a lot. All manner of people were selling basic and not so basic foodstuffs from their garages and charging illegally in hard currency. People coming back from the UK brought food and bread back in their luggage. Said a UK customs official to someone I know on seeing the bread in her hand luggage;  “Going back to Zimbabwe are we madam?”.

If you were down in Jo’burg it was possible to go and buy in bulk at the Woodmead Makro wholesale warehouse in the north. I did a pallet shop and ran out of money before the pallet was up to full height so it was rather expensive on the transport but I got it back to Harare with a transport company offering a specific service. Most of it was used long ago but being single I don’t go through a lot of food and the South African supermarket chains could land produce here much cheaper than the individual could once the US dollar became the currency of choice in 2009. So I rather forgot about it until just now.

The best before date on the baked beans is October last year and on the butter beans is a month ago and there is no rust on any of the cans so the contents are definitely worth investigating. This IS Zimbabwe and we don’t just throw away food because it has passed its best before date!

I do still occasionally come across wads of totally useless Zimbabwe dollars stashed away at the back of a cupboard or secreted in a suitcase. The best before dates on those was pretty much the day after I stored them (there was no point in banking them as there were limits on withdrawing cash and they devalued too fast) and no, they have no other use that even I can think of.