/ 13 March 2009

Take the biscuit — twice

Everything around the streets of Harare seems to have changed, the hordes of people changing wads of cash have disappeared and there are fewer cars on the road. Life seems to be getting back to “normal”.

But the spirit of enterprise is stronger than ever. “Dollar for two, dollar for two” go the symphonies of street vendors.

Whether you are buying a drink, grabbing a taxi home or buying bread, everything is “dollar for two”. This is thanks to the introduction of the dual currency system in Zimbabwe.

If you have US$1, you are a king, especially when it comes in cents. If you only have a note, however, your “dollar for two” will force you to buy two even when you want one because of the change shortage.

“Dollar for two” has seen imported South African assorted biscuits becoming the bestseller in town; Marie, Lemon Creams, Galaxy, Choice Assorted, you name it, you can get it.

Clutching their small white boxes at every street corner, the traders are unmistakable. South African biscuits are the bite of choice, but all biscuits are a sell-out success.

“Biscuits are the in thing,” one Harare office worker told me. “Because that’s what many people in town can afford to buy for lunch. They’re the cheapest food in town.”

“If I go home without biscuits, my wife will ask me why I don’t have them because they are the cheapest product in town,” says another worker.

I asked one street vendor why biscuits? “That’s what the people of Harare are eating; it’s now the biscuit city. You can enjoy them anywhere, in a taxi, working in your office or walking around town. They keep the hunger away.”

With a plate of sadza or pap going for US$2 and a kilogram of meat for US$3, biscuits remain the cheapest item in town at “dollar for two”.

Just three months ago the streets of Harare were infested with currency dealers, but the goalposts have shifted. The money is now in biscuits: if you have them, you are king.

Stanley Kwenda is a 27-year-old journalist based in Harare. He records the trials and tribulations of Zimbabweans through his writings and on his personal blog www.tatamburatimes.blogspot.com