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Cash Shortages Resurface In Zimbabwe, Elections Seen Partly To Blame

The cash shortages which bedeviled Zimbabweans around Christmas resurfaced in the approach to the long Easter weekend, complicating operations for the campaigns of presidential and other political hopefuls whose activities were partly to blame.

Local sources said some banks late last week were turning away customers seeking cash for the impending holiday weekend, while others were restricting withdrawals far below the legal daily maximum of Z$500 million, around US$10.

With Zimbabwean currency at a premium, the local dollar gained on the U.S. dollar with the greenback fetching Z$40 million compared with Z$60 million days earlier.

Political operatives said they were finding it hard to purchase necessities with campaign T-shirts, for instance, costing Z$60 million dollars.

Economist Rejoice Ngwenya told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that heavy spending to support large campaign staffs is partly to blame for the shortage of bank notes. He added that the cash shortage could get worse after the election as the central bank slows its printing presses.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean consumers are facing a deepening food crisis with prices for all basic goods up sharply. Most such goods are only available on the black market.

Ten kilos of maize meal cost more than Z150 million - the official price is Z10 million.

Average rents have soared to Z$1.5 billion dollars from Z$300 million not long ago.

A month's supply of life-extending antiretroviral drugs for those living with HIV/AIDS has reached Z$1.3 billion dollars compared with Z$30 million in January.

As the Times of London reported this week, a burial in Harare, the capital, costs Z$1 billion - triple the price of $300 million just a few days ago.

National Incomes and Pricing Commission Chairman Godwills Masimirembwa told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that some business leaders are sabotaging the economy by buying scarce foreign exchange in the parallel marketplace, which he said is fueling the steep rise in prices.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...