Today the headlines about
Why all the fuss? The answer is Operation Dzikamai – Shona for “calm down.” Last week, with the stated goal of curbing inflation, the government ordered all retailers to roll back their prices to June 18th-levels. In a normal economy there would be little difference between the prices of goods today and their prices from two weeks ago. But
The evening Operation Dzikamai was announced, I drove home listening to a state-run news channel. The news reader, grave and solemn, said the station’s reporters had noticed a “disturbing trend”: retailers, instead of marking down prices, were simply removing items from the shelves. What the news called a disturbing trend was exactly what everyone else in the country knew would happen. In fact, people were already flocking to stores to purchase items while prices were low and, even more importantly, before they disappeared. Some of the people who were lucky enough – or pushy and patient enough – to get their hands on controlled items quickly began reselling these goods by the side of the road at double the controlled price. The black market is flourishing. Some stores have tried to shut rather than sell items at a loss. They may call it Operation Dzikamai, but the situation is anything but calm.
These days, a visit to a supermarket is a visit to a bizarre reality. There are three stores within an easy walk of my office. Two have simply removed whole shelves which used to contain bread, peanut butter and other staples. Almost every freezer case is empty. There is no meat or chicken for sale – and this in a country that doesn’t consider a meal a meal unless a hunk of meat or chicken is involved. Instead, I saw people hunched over the one tiny frozen fish compartment, picking up whole frozen trout and crumpled boxes of fish sticks, and shaking their heads.
What’s next? Who knows. In the meantime, Mark is greasing his elbows and doing sprints to prepare for his next supermarket foray. And I’ve realized that it may finally be time for me to learn how to bake bread.