Apocalypse now

I just read a couple of short articles by Bev Clark about what it’s like living in Zimbabwe right now. It reminded me of pretty much every end of the world book I have ever read:

Yesterday, Joseph, a 12-year-old boy arrived at my office door. He was hanging limply over the railing staring at me with blank eyes. His mother had been a regular visitor, coming once every two weeks for a handout to keep her going in this country with over one million percent inflation. Her thin body was wracked by AIDS. Last week Zanu PF militia tried to force her to go to a rally. She refused. They broke her leg. Her compromised state made it impossible for her to survive. So her orphan son has carried on the visits that his mother started.

Even simple stuff like going to the toilet is difficult now:

Almost every day the office block is powered by generator. It’s seldom that we can rely on the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) to provide services. Water is a luxury too. Turn on the taps and not much happens. Because toilet paper can’t be found in regular supermarkets and stores, the building administrator has demanded that all office workers bring their own toilet paper to work. Trouble is it’s hard to find so the next best thing to wipe your bum with is The Herald newspaper; a fitting use for Mugabe’s vile, daily news distorter. But that of course leaves the toilets blocked.

Remember with the rate of inflation—a million per cent—toilet paper—if you can find it—is expensive. A New York Times article by Michael Wines from early May asks,

How bad is inflation in Zimbabwe? Well, consider this: at a supermarket near the center of this tatterdemalion capital, toilet paper costs $417.

No, not per roll. Four hundred seventeen Zimbabwean dollars is the value of a single two-ply sheet. A roll costs $145,750 — in American currency, about 69 cents.

The price of toilet paper, like everything else here, soars almost daily, spawning jokes about an impending better use for Zimbabwe’s $500 bill, now the smallest in circulation.

Imagine what it’s like shopping with that kind of inflation and daily fluctuations in prices Bev Clark writes that

[t]he last time I went shopping it took me longer to pay for my few purchases than to shop for them. The swipe machines have a limit of Z$9 billion. So go figure if you want to buy a small packet of meat, which at today’s price is, Z$151 billion. Yesterday I bought a chicken for $26 billion. It looked rather strange. All bent and buckled but I bravely bought the bird needing a change from my usual beans and rice. I left it out last night to defrost and I must say that in the cold light of day it’s a bit of a sight. I threw it in the pot anyway.

She was lucky to get the chicken:

I wandered around the near empty aisles for a while checking out the near empty shelves. At the fresh meat counter a variety of Zimbabweans picked up and put down punnets of budget beef unable to afford even the bits of fat and bone trying to pass for a potential square meal.

Too many people in too many places in the world are already living in an apocalypse.


  1. Karen on #

    Wow. Thanks for the update. I read the headlines and the stories on BBC and nothing translates into this kind of day-to-day struggle. Scary stuff.

  2. Rosalie on #

    fascinating! I’m going to be a dermatologist!

    btw, what is with you and the apocalypse? (and btw again, the apocalypse will not be caused by bacteria or itchiness, but by men. Men do everything wrong and everything bad ever done in this world is by men. And they like suffering and violence, especially against women. Unless we rid our selves of horrible men or control them, we will all die a terrible death.)

  3. Candy on #

    This just makes me so sad. The powers around Zimbabwe who are content to watch are culpable for Mugabe’s crimes. I remember when I was a teenager living under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines when Ronald Reagan said,”Sure he’s an SOB but he’s our SOB.” In fact after a million people turned against him and his own army staged a (failed) coup, the only thing that persuaded Marcos to go was a phone call from Reagan.

    So come on, Thabo Mbeki, stop covering up for your friend and tell him to go.

  4. Merre Haskell on #

    Too many people in too many places in the world are already living in an apocalypse.


    Apocalypse fantasies were how I dealt with terrible end of the world nightmares as a child. It was amelioration of horror through mental preparation… Half my nightmares came from nuclear war fears and my grandparents’ Pentecostal religion. But at least half of my nightmares came from reading about Nazi Germany. Which had actually happened. And knowing that was so much worse than guessing what a nuclear war might be like.

  5. hillary! on #

    Why is it that you never hear of this kind of thing in the news? All you hear about is The Phantom Defecator.

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