We are still at the lower end of the first quarter of 2021 and we already find ourselves under lockdown. Lockdowns are always dreadful in Zimbabwe, just like anywhere else. In Zimbabwe, the dread is especially particular because the economy is largely informal. This means that most people generate their income from the informal sector. When you look at the lockdown restrictions they have dire effects on that sector. This means the majority of people are struggling to make ends meet right now. Earlier today I saw a headline that read, “Mother of 5 commits suicide by hanging herself on a mango tree over lockdown hardships.” Quite sad! Anyways, I want to look at the current cost of living in Zimbabwe.
What ZIMSTAT Is Saying
According to ZIMSTAT, an average-sized family of 5 now requires approximately ZWL$70000 to cater for its monthly expenses. Roughly that is around US$250 – rates do vary of course. This represents an increase in the US dollar value of the poverty datum line. They have also reported that the Food Poverty Line is now approximately ZWL$3800. The Consumption Poverty Line now stands at roughly ZWL$5000 – no wonder I said a family of 5 needs ZWL$70000. (Take note that I rounded off these figures). ZIMSTAT also said that Bulawayo has the highest cost of living – roughly ZWL$27500. Matabeleland South has the lowest cost of living – approximately ZWL$21900 for a family of 5. These metrics are all-inclusive by the way thus it covers basic monthly expenses save for rentals.
I am going to highlight the current fares under the ZUPCO initiative. This is because they tend to be cheaper than other available options. As for buses, a distance ranging from 1 to 20 kilometres now costs ZWL$30, a distance of 21 to 30 kilometres now costs ZWL$45 whereas 31 to 40 kilometres now costs ZWL$60. As for commuter omnibuses, 1 to 20 kilometres now costs ZWL$60 whereas 21 to 30 kilometres now costs ZWL$90. These are new fares that recently came into effect on the 18th of January. I have, however, noted some discrepancies, for example, the Masvingo – Mashava route is 40 kilometres yet they are charging ZWL$170 (or US$2). Intercity travel is banned under the current lockdown so I will not delve into that.
Fuel And Gas
Fuel prices were also reviewed not too long ago. The cost of buying a litre of petrol currently stands at US$1.21 or ZWL$99.35. Diesel is at US$1.23 or ZWL$100.91.These are the fuel prices that became effective on the 5th of January 2021. Interestingly though, selling prices are fluctuating due to changes in demand. Thus you can find diesel being sold for at least US$1 whereas petrol around an average of US$1.14 per litre.
This is not really surprising because ZERA did highlight that operators can sell under the capped prices, whatever works out to their advantage competition-wise. On the parallel market fuel is around US$1.10 per litre, diesel or petrol. Gas is going for about ZWL$105 per kilogram or US$1.40 – that is at Zuva Petroleum. As for parallel market prices, it is US$1.15, RTGS$125, or ZWL$115 per kilogram. Bear in mind that prices are not uniform at all – it really depends on where you buy from.
I will also do run down the accommodation aspect. Accommodation is still largely the same as has been for quite some time now. It has been the norm that people pay rentals in US dollars or SA Rands. Thus rentals have stayed somewhat stable over extended periods of time. Decent one-room accommodation can start from around US$30 – even less in some cases. Rentals are also location-specific i.e. the residential category (high, medium, or low density) or town or neighbourhood and so on. All in all, people still enjoy the liberty to choose what they can afford, for the most part.
Cost of living varies greatly from person to person due to countless variables. Food items such as milk (1 litre), bread, and eggs average US$1.50, US$1, and US$3 respectively. Local transport fare averages US$0.50 for a one-way trip. Water and electricity can average around US$75 or so – highly variable though. Call airtime is around US$0.15 per minute whereas unlimited monthly data averages US$135. Just like most other items phone use dynamics vary because there are so many options to pick from.
When it comes to cost living, food and basic commodities, in general, tend to gobble up the biggest chunk. Then rentals and utilities tend to follow through school fees or tuition responsibilities can mean different proportions. Overall, the cost of living in Zimbabwe is quite unaffordable for many. This is exacerbated by the prevailing lockdowns which have been centre stage since early last year.