CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Even making a plan to buy a Bible in Zimbabwe is enough to work you up into a sweat, says Jesuit Father Oscar Wermter.
At last, the Bible has been translated into Shona, a local language, and is selling for $6. So, like other parish priests, Harare-based Father Wermter wants to order 20 for those in his parish who want their own copy but can’t afford it. The Bible is a luxury in a country where 5 million people — about half the population of Zimbabwe — are facing starvation.
Everyone with something to sell wants cash or foreign currency, he says, and if you insist on paying by check they charge you 10 times as much.
If he went to the bank to draw out the equivalent in Zimbabwean dollars of the $120 he would need for 20 Bibles, he would stand all day in line and, when he got to the front, he likely would be told there was not enough money to give him all he needed.
And even if he was able to draw it all, by the time he got out of the bank, with an inflation rate of 231 million percent the Zim bucks would be worth less than they had been when he started out. His other option is to collect the cash from each parishioner before he pays the supplier. But then he’s passing on the chore of spending a day in the bank to them and will still be out of pocket because, with prices going up every few minutes, there’s no way he could collect the money and pay for the Bibles before the
So he’s caught between a rock and a hard place, and while he’s pondering those Bibles aren’t getting any cheaper.