Zimbabweans struggle with too few dollars
By Wongai Zhangazha
It is only a week after Magdalene Tinarwo came to Harare from Marondera, a small town 60 km from the capital to get her month’s salary but now she is left with a few dollars that can not sustain her until her next salary.
Struggling to make ends meet as a teacher at a primary school, Magdalene finds her US$135 salary barely enough to cover fees for her three children, rent, food and transport, without mentioning the extended family.
Prices too High
As of August 1 2009 the price of bread is US$0.90 cents, 10kg of mealie meal is US$4.65, two litres cooking oil US$3.50, a kilogram of beef is at US$4.50, 500ml of milk US60 cents and green bar soap is US$1.
Petrol costs US$1.50 per litre while diesel is at US$1.
Rent in high density areas ranges between US$30 - US$50 per room while a two bedroom flat is US$400 and one bedroom is US$200.
Before Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti increased the wage bill of civil servants by about 40% during his mid-term fiscal policy review last month, Magdalene was getting her salary as an allowance of US$100.
She subsidises her salary with money she gets from parents of the children she teaches.
Pupils are required to bring US$1 dollar every beginning of the week to sustain the teachers living. Those who fail to bring the money will not be allowed into class.
Chances of an immediate appraisal of her salary are very low, as Biti said the government did not have enough money.
Biti said: “Government is also urging public servants including pensioners, to exercise restraint on wage demands that are beyond the capacity of the budget and the economy at large.”
Hard to Survive
Many Zimbabweans are finding it hard to survive during this period of dollarisation owing to the paltry salaries they get from their employers.
Though they admit that things have improved since the days of the use of the Zimbabwean dollar and runaway inflation, getting the US dollar is now the major challenge.
The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) in June this year said despite the availability of basic commodities in shops the goods remained beyond the reach of ordinary people, the majority of whom are unemployed.
According to CCZ the consumer basket as of June 2009 is $437.62 mainly due to rentals increasing on a monthly basis.
Food constitutes 25.41 percent of the family basket while transport, soap and detergents constitute 10 percent. The remaining percentage constitutes rent, water, health, education and footwear.
Social commentator Tawanda Kanhema holds the view that life for many Zimbabweans is still very expensive although conditions have improved.
Kanhema said: “It seems very expensive to me, but I think conditions have generally changed for better. I think that an environment in which people are able to negotiate for what they want freely is good.”
He criticised the government for failing to increase civil servants salaries.
Salaries too Low
“Their salary is far too little. I think the government is still heavily undervaluing the labour of civil servants. Anything below US$300 is not sufficient under the prevailing conditions, and paying less will not stop the brain drain,” he said.
A bank teller at a local bank, National Merchant Bank of Zimbabwe (NMBZ) said life for her was tough as they were surviving on a half month’s salary.
“Our bank recently came up with a policy of making staff go on unpaid leave for two weeks at a time. Two weeks we are the office and two weeks out. We only get paid for the two weeks we are in and last month I was paid US$273. When we try to raise the issue with management they tell us to go and get paid where there is money,” she said.
Domestic workers are amongst the most lowly paid workers, getting between US$30-US$50 per month.
The country's union federation, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) recommended that employers pay salaries over the poverty datum line currently at US$454.
- Find out more about Social Security in Zimbabwe.