The cost of living

A Chinese cargo ship carrying arms and ammunition docked in South Africa this week. The shipment was ordered by Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF government in Zimbabwe. Paperwork indicates it was ordered just days after the disputed Zimbabwe elections. Dock workers refused to unload the cargo once they discovered what it was and where it was headed. The Ship recently left Durban's port apparently bound for Mozambique. Read more here and here.

It seems to me that Mugabe is preparing to cling on to power in a violent and brutal fashion. Although the European Union has a ban on the sale of arms to Zimbabwe it seems China has no such scruples. That the country's economy is in freefall and only a handful of people have any real wealth seems to matter little when it comes to the purchase of weapons. I wonder how many wads of banknotes these weapons are worth?

Photograph: Robin Hammond/Observer Magazine

The caption for this photograph (taken almost one year ago) reads: A man fortunate enough to have work holds his monthly wages, equal to just over GBP80. His pay includes a travel allowance which, due to inflation, is now greater than the salary itself. The cost of living doubled in the course of April 2007 as Zimbabwe's annual inflation reached 3,700%. Some experts now estimate it has reached 15,000%. Harare, Zimbabwe. May 2007

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