HomeStandard PeopleDusty Miller: Horrid Hyper Inflation Hits Harare!

Dusty Miller: Horrid Hyper Inflation Hits Harare!

WE haven’t yet said goodbye here to the Bulawayo trip, but I must re-focus on horrible hyperinflation.

 

During eight days in Bulawayo, the dearest course encountered was a one-kilo plus export quality fillet, the “Real McCoy”, at the excellent Cattleman for $10,1 billion including starch and vegetables.

A wonderful three course, plus bottomless coffee, set lunch in the grounds of incomparable Nesbitt Castle was $14 billion; breakfasts which would fill you all day at either Holiday Inn or Bulawayo Rainbow were $10,2 billion.

Virtually all hospitality trade inputs rose an average five-fold during my first week back. Learner barmen earn, now, more than the president did six months ago!

From June 1, even a school-leaver entering hospitality without an O-level (in the unlikely event anyone’s hiring!) as toilet cleaner, potato peeler or floor sweeper, pulled $127,45 billion: $65,45 billion basic; $52 billion transport and $10 billion housing allowance: a 1 275% increase on May (when they received 164% pay hikes.) Talks continue on July raises, but meanwhile “bums on seats” are down at least 50%, say restaurant bosses.

When company director Richard Matthews phoned asking how much I thought Sunday lunch at Adrienne’s, Belgravia, would be, I said the last I heard it was about $10 or $12 billion, probably budget $20-25 billion to be safe.

He smsd later, vexed that the bill was $65 billion for each of 13 guests, including a child: bottom line almost a trillion! Adrienne’s was twice voted Best Value for Money Restaurant in Zimbabwe by sister paper The Standard readers. (And probably still is.)

I was stunned at the end of a “quick” Jaipur curry. It was far from quick: rice just wouldn’t boil on reduced Zesa voltage. I’d had mixed Indian starters to kill time (as I love them.) Mutton curry came first sans rice, but with extra naan. “No, no” I protested, “you can’t do curry-and-rice without rice, tut-tut.”

We waited until the owner’s wife cooked some at home, delivering it! I had three, instead of two, lagers due to the delay, then ice-cream.

Not glancing at the menu, having been away a week and thinking the bill would be around $10 billion, I was shocked to be charged $15,6 billion, even after a discount on mains due to the rice snafu!

A sudden June 19 invitation to lunch at Café Ilala, Richard Rennie Galleries, was aborted as owner Gilles Perot’s father died suddenly in France and the family had dashed there, shutting the garden eatery.

I told South African hosts Adrienne’s or Great Wall were the two closest outlets. Chinese it was and, again, we made the mistake of not scanning menus.

A chicken and sweetcorn soup, spring rolls for three, sweet-and-sour pork, Szechwan chicken, beef and mushrooms, egg foo-yong and soft noodles, a beer and two waters cost….wait for it…$186 billion without a tip (say $200 billion with.)

Candidly, we didn’t have that sort of loot: it would take eight visits to the bank, drawing the maximum $25 billion daily, to get $200 billion liquid, without spending a cent. If you started on Monday you could draw sufficient cash by the following week’s Tuesday to buy a supposedly “cheapo” lunch for three! (If you can live nine days on zip!) Ignoring the Catch-22 scenario that by the time you had $200 billion for lunch, it would probably cost $400 billion!

This can’t be serious, I thought!

Explaining our predicament to a charming young oriental lady, speaking little English and no Shona, we opted to pay real money. She settled on US$29. From US$30 we had a stack of Zim dollar change, including a $5 billion “agro” cheque. They would be better called “aggro” cheques: they cause much aggravation!

Now $29 is probably a morning’s minimum pay in the States; it’s about £15: well under three hours’ stipend for a 23-year-old asylum seeker in the UK. How long does it take you to earn – and clear after tax and stoppages —— $186 billion? It would even take the newly plutocratic barman over a month

Incidentally, Chinese soup, a chicken and soft noodles dish, vanilla ice-cream and a lager at Shangri-La, Bulawayo, two weeks earlier was $5,174 billion. I had to take supper very easily as I’d grabbed a wad of red $50 million notes instead of red $500 millions from the mini-safe. A waiter claimed arrogantly I was $1 billion short.

A Chinese lady receptionist (again little fluency in English or SiNdebele) said there was just enough to cover food and a small tip. I told her to forget a bloody tip, due to the server’s attitude (or dishonesty), giving change to a beggar outside!

There is clearly much profiteering happening. I changed my mind about eating at City Bowling Club as the manager was shirty about my describing their tasteless hot-dogs in less than glowing terms, in a column, when they were $1,6 billion. On Friday, they cost $30 billion, burgers $35 billion, omelettes a stratospheric $65 billion; they demanded a preposterous $8 billion for a cuppa!

Moving to Harare Club: grand soup of the day (chicken-and-veg) and toast, huku vindaloo with much rice, good sambals, ice-cream and lemon sauce and bottomless silver pot of great coffee cost $13,25 billion. Caveat emptor!

By Dusty Miller

dustym@zimind.co.zw

 

 

 

 

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