Not worth the paper it's printed on
By Daniel Pepper, FORTUNE

(FORTUNE Magazine) - Harare, Zimbabwe

A million zimbabwean dollars could buy a house in 1996. Today it's not enough for a tin of coffee.

Suffering from the worst inflation of any country outside a war zone, Zimbabwe saw prices rise in April by 1,042%. To ease the burden of having to lug around bags of cash for grocery shopping, the central bank introduced a new $100,000 banknote in June, roughly equivalent to one U.S. dollar.

But the new note means little to pensioners like 76-year-old Frederick Redmond, who worked 38 years for Zimbabwe's railroads and receives less than $70,000 a month. "It can't even buy a loaf of bread," says Redmond. "You work all your life, and what do you get at the end? Absolutely nothing!"

Political opposition groups have so far failed to capitalize on the public's simmering frustration, in part because President Robert Mugabe's security officials have threatened to open fire on protesters. There is no sign the country's octogenarian President, who has been in power since 1980, will rein in the printing of money to pay for 300% salary increases for soldiers and teachers.

Meanwhile, 11-year-old Lizneth Tendesi mopes around at home outside Harare, her grandparents unable to afford her school fees, which jumped last month from $600,000 to $1,908,000 a term. "Sometimes we go to sleep without eating," she says. Top of page