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Written by: Staff

HARARE, May 13 (Reuters) A joke doing the rounds in Zimbabwe's capital Harare is that shop assistants have never been so busy.

Their hands are sore from adjusting price tags to keep up with skyrocketing inflation.

Some shops no longer put prices on commodities, saving themselves the hassle of changing them every day.

Consumers too find a trip to the supermarket dizzying and exhausting.

Pen and paper in hand, Tawanda Rwazemba scours stocked shelves at a shop in central Harare, trying to add up the prices of the most basic commodities to take him through the month.

For a 2-litre pack of orange juice, Rwazemba must part with Z$500,000 (US$5), the same price for 2 kg of rice, while a kilogram of beef costs anything from Z$300,000 to Z$1 million depending on the quality.

''This is unbearable. Can you imagine we are millionaires but we can't afford much,'' remarked 24-year-old Rwazemba, an accounts clerk who earns a net monthly salary of 193 dollars, double what many others take home.

''It can't be a life where you just wake up to find that prices have gone up, how do you plan for that?'' he asks.

Rwazemba's is a story told many times over as Zimbabwe's urban population grapples with the world's highest inflation rate, which has forced people to carry around large wads of banknotes that buy very little.

Inflation, which clocked a record 1,042.9 per cent yesterday, is a stark reminder of the southern African nation's eight-year recession that has sparked shortages of foreign currency, fuel and food while three quarters of workers are jobless.

Some landlords now raise the price of rent every month while real estate agents have a three-month rent review cycle. As the crisis deepens and the cost of petrol soars, some workers have turned to pedal power, cycling to work, while hundreds others have formed walking groups.

SURVIVAL MODE Analysts say most Zimbabweans are just surviving, after cutting down on many basic necessities, with some families living on a single meal a day.

''How do you start to explain a situation were you wake up to a new price almost every day? Many families are barely getting by, they are in a survival mode,'' John Robertson, a leading private economic consultant, told Reuters.


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