Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bleak Christmas for Zimbabweans

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) 12-24-2007 -- Thousands of Zimbabweans waited for hours to get scarce currency from the banks so they could buy food and board buses on Monday for Christmas trips to their home villages.


A riot police officer monitors people in a bank line on the day before Christmas in Harare, Zimbabwe on Monday.

"We call this the festive season but where is there any joy?" said housewife and mother Mildred Chikutu, who got into a line before dawn to withdraw the maximum allowed in a day, 50 million Zimbabwe dollars -- 25 U.S. dollars at the dominant black market rate -- enough to buy a hamburger.

"You queue for money, and that's only the beginning of the queuing," she said, heading into a nearby supermarket where many shelves were bare of basic goods. A line had formed at the bakery counter.

Inflation-- the world's highest -- was about 8,000 percent officially in September, but independent estimates put it nearer 100,000 percent.

With cash itself in short supply, the central bank has supplied new high denomination notes, the largest worth 750,000 Zimbabwe dollars --
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