Update from Zimbabwe

We have some long-time friends who have been missionaries to Zimbabwe for several years now. Following is a portion of their Christmas/New Year update. It’s truly amazing how much things have deteriorated there…

  • I realise that some of you may have wondered if with all the bad news from Zimbabwe we were still here. It has been a real mission just to keep in touch with our family because of the system here…
  • The really good news – Hallelujah, we have just been reconnected to a telephone land-line, after almost 9 months without! Back in March the phone company gave us someone else’s number when connecting us to the digital network, so they disconnected us again, but failed to give us a different number or give us back our original line. [The husband] has visited their offices at least 50 times and written numerous letters to no avail, until the engineers turned up 2 days ago and 5 minutes later we were connected!
  • We are still awaiting connection of the other line which was cut off for no good reason at least 4 years ago, but we are so relieved to have a working phone again that we think we can do without a second one for a while. It means that [the husband] will not have to keep going to his…office to get e-mail and internet services. The mobile phone network is heavily congested and like everything, has become very expensive, especially the pay-as-you-go service.
  • We have had no gardener for about 2 months after the last guy left without warning (the previous one had stolen from us and was dismissed). We thought we had found a replacement this week, but he has failed to turn up, so we are both doing what we can to keep things under control for the time being. [The husband] spent many hours over last weekend mowing lawns and trimming trees and hedges…
  • There was also a blocked sewer that had to be sorted out yesterday – [The husband] is presently investigating the sewers from the original drawings and with trial holes to find where the rest of the manholes are hidden – and two of our vehicles have also been repaired this week, so there is plenty to keep us occupied.
  • [The husband] is now planning a trip in January with his team to establish two new churches in Mozambique and Malawi.
  • You will be aware of the dire situation with regard to the cholera epidemic. Our church is very involved with running clinics dealing with the illness, and paying for nurses and doctors to staff them. At home we, and the whole area, have had no mains water for 5 months, and every day we thank God for our borehole. Our water became increasingly hard the lower the level went, but it has done us no harm, and the borehole is now filling up rapidly with the huge rains we are having. Power cuts have not been as bad as this time last year, but again we are so thankful for the generator that keeps the lights on and the borehole pumping when the power fails. Many folk around here are selling their water to companies that transport and sell it elsewhere, but of course it would be wonderful if the authorities could mend the leaks and purify the municipal supply! There has been no refuse collection either for several months, so we are forced to burn, bury or transport rubbish to the only dump in town. And still we are expected to pay rates!
  • There are a lot more goods in the shops now that foreign currency is widely accepted in payment, but things have become very expensive as most of the produce has to be imported. Almost every worker outside of the civil service is paid in forex, or petrol vouchers or goods, as the local currency is virtually worthless, and very hard to come by. From being almost the cheapest country in the world to live in when we first came, it is now on a par with the UK. So we have to reign in our spending here, and do almost all our shopping apart from meat and vegetables in South Africa. The journey can be done in six hours, though the border crossing can take several more hours to navigate. But it is worth the effort, and gives us a few days break…The cost of the journey is easily covered by the savings on the prices of the same goods imported here by traders.
  • Two things can show what people here are faced with financially. First the exchange rate for the US dollar was Z$32 after the ten zeroes were removed at the beginning of August. We even had new coins for the first time for years. Follow the progress: Aug16 – 100. Sep03 – 220. Sep08 – 390. Sep17 – 500. Sep28 – 950. Oct21 – 32,000. Nov02 – 130,000. Nov13 – 300,000. Dec03 – 19,000,000. Dec11 – 50M. I don’t know what it is today but probably well over 200M. No one keeps money for more than a few hours.
  • Second the prices. E.g of saw sharpening – needed for all my recent work. Three weeks ago it was 7.5M. Last week I took another one in and looked on the price board and it was 100M. That was how much could be drawn from a bank a/c each day. I gave them 100M and they asked for another 50M. When I asked why they said that the 100M was yesterday’s price. The real price was US$3.
  • A month ago a loaf of bread was 2.5M. Each time a higher denomination note arrives – a weekly occurrence – the price increases. From 2.5M to 16M then 25M and then to 300M this week. We don’t often buy bread any more but I did get a small currant loaf for 110M last week.

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