50,000 dollars for an egg!
To drive the point home, he pulled out his wallet and handed me 50,000 dollars!
Now, under normal circumstances, this was the point at which I would quit my job and spend the money traveling around the world or finally settle down and write a book.
The only problem this time was that my mate, Mernat, was from Harare and the money he was lugging around was Zimbabwe dollars, not the more valuable US dollars. A mismanaged land redistribution policy has left Zimbabwe's agro-dependant economy on the ropes while international political and economic isolation has only made a dire situation worse.
Zimbabwe's inflation is currently at around 1,100% and growing every day. The value of the currency is more like 'here today, gone tomorrow'. The 50,000 Zim dollars that I was given -- it is a single note, mark you, has an 'expiry' date. It is a bearer cheque which should be cashed in on or before 31st December 2006. By then I am not sure it would be worth the paper on which it is printed.
I asked Mernat what I could buy with my windfall.
After a short pause, he told me.
Once the bread-basket of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe has ground to a halt as South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki looks on in comical 'silent diplomacy', probably trying not to end up with egg on his face. Too late for that for the rest of the Zimbabweans!