EVERY evening, many roads, particularly those near shopping centres in high-density suburbs, are turned into meat markets selling all sorts of cheap meat, and small re-packaged quantities of foodstuffs.
Be it chicken, beef or pork cuts or chicken heads, feet, skin, legs, you will find the budget packs in abundance.
Small quantities of mealie-meal, cooking oil, vegetables, sugar, or rice — enough for a day’s meal can also be purchased, to save the day.
These small foodstuff packs, better known as ‘tsaona’ packs, which translates to ‘emergency’, have been a life saver for many families are struggling to raise even US$1 on any given day. While tsaona packs have been popular with low-income workers, the working class, whose livelihoods have been blighted by inflation have joined the rush for the packs.
Many can no longer afford to buy from retail outlets or butcheries because of the exorbitant prices thanks to the hyperinflationary environment. On Wednesday, the beleaguered Zimbabwe dollar depreciated to US$1:ZW$6 926 on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s official forex auction.
Last Tuesday’s rate was US$1:ZW$5 978. On the streets and outside shopping centres, one can buy meat for as little as US$1.50 which will be enough to feed a family of four or five.
A survey by The NewsHawks in Sunningdale and Mbare this week revealed that people have been largely relying on tsaona packs for survival, as food prices have continued on an upward trend. On stalls in both areas, home-cooked beans have become a hit with consumers.
The beans are packed in a small plastic and sells for US$0.50, saving cooking time and money for customers. “It has become cheaper to buy from vendors. For three dollars, I can buy meat that can sustain my family for dinner. Three portions of a chicken cost a dollar each, contrary to prices being charged by shops.
“Rates in major retail outlets have also become very high. The rates are also lower compared to shops. I can buy meat that costs US$1 for ZW$2 400, and pay ZW$7 000 for the same in a shop,” said Cynthia Marowa, a resident who participated in the survey.
In Mbare, a shopping centre close to Number 7 grounds, on the flanks of Pazarangu Drive has been renamed to “huku” area, which translates to “chicken”.
People throng this area at dusk for cheap meat.
“You have to be careful here. Some of the meat is from chickens that would have died on their own. It is not usually safe, but the meat is recognisable at times due to its reddish colour. Decent chicken is white.
“We just buy from people who slaughter chickens. These are usually more trustworthy than the others,” said a consumer who spoke to The NewsHawks.
The cost of living has continually shot up due to chronic high inflation. The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) says a family of six now requires ZW$1 million a month to survive, up from ZW$611 275 in April, reflecting the depth of the Zimdollar’s crash and resultant price spikes.
Zimbabwe is now caught up in a vortex of a rapidly weakening currency, rising inflation, price spikes that have left workers facing impoverishment as wages and earnings fail to keep pace.
A letter by the Zimbabwe Educators Union dated June 12 shows has shown that teachers have been earning ZW$70 311 (US$13.50), excluding the Covid-19 allowance.
Unions have in the past expressed concern over the US$300 Covid-19 allowance which they say is temporary and can be removed any time.
A fortnight ago, Kuwadzana East legislator Charlton Hwende revealed that soldiers have been earning between ZW$86 000 and ZW$100 000.
Over 70% of transactions have been condixte in foreign currency, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (ZimStat).
While ZimStat in its latest report says food insecurity in urban areas has remained constant at 8% from March 2021 to January 2023, this has largely been dwarfed by current inflation which has worsened food insecurity.
Tsaona stalls and informal grocery tuckshops have continued to throw a lifeline to poverty-stricken citizens who cannot afford the crazy prices charged by supermarkets.