Zimbabwe money printing, price control mess, boom for border town

MUSINA, South Africa, Aug 5, 2007 (AFP) – James Diop rings up another sale and then contemplates his good fortune to work in a supermarket in South Africa as the stores across the border in Zimbabwe grow emptier by the day. “We’ve had a 300 percent increase in sales since June which is unprecedented … and so we don’t want the good times to end,” he said.

“We really are laughing all the way to the bank.”

Like many others whose livelihoods depend on the volume of trade in the sleepy border town of Musina, Diop has found that the economic meltdown north of the Limpopo river is a cloud with a silver lining.

Since June, when veteran President Robert Mugabe ordered sweeping price cuts, stores in Zimbabwe have virtually run dry of the basics such as cooking oil, sugar and bread as producers can no longer cover their costs at a time when the annual rate of inflation is believed to have run into five figures.

While some Zimbabweans have turned to the underground market, others have headed southwards where such stocks are still readily in supply and can bring in a handy profit.

The owner of a grocer’s shop in the town of Louis Trichardt, the next stop down the road from Musina, said he was struggling to kee