The figures don’t add up, but I won’t quit
The figures don’t add up. But I am not leaving my job or the country. For now! This will probably not make sense to a lot of people. My salary is now only US$8 a month, less than US50 cents a day, yet I am considered one of the senior employees by my company. Three years ago, I was earning about US$1 000. I need three months’ salary just for the basics, that is, if I can get them. Fees for my three children still at school works out to 10 months’ salary. The year has three terms. I won’t leave my job because of the perks. It’s nothing to take home but it’s worth staying for. I have a company car and the company provides me with fuel. Fuel for one month alone is more than my annual salary. Most of the things I do are technically illegal because of our draconian laws. While most people hate the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) for various reasons including licence fees to practise journalism or to own newspapers or radio and television stations, I dislike it for one major reason. It forbids me to freelance. It, therefore, makes it illegal for me to freelance in terms of the country’s laws, yet freelancing has been my lifeline since I became a journalist more than 30 years ago. I remember way back in the 1980s trying to strike a deal with my wife that she could go and get my salary from my then employer if she allowed me to do whatever I wanted with earnings from my freelance work. She flatly refused, because I was making more from freelancing than from my full-time job. Those were the good days. The Zimbabwe dollar was still stronger than most currencies in the region, including the United States dollar. My old passport proves this. I changed Z$150 to get US$200 when I went to the United States in 1983 on a seven-month fellowship programme. Now the Zimbabwe dollar is worthless. Freelancing has become a lifeline for most journalists. Even websites operated by exiled Zimbabweans are now paying better than most newspapers. I remember turning down an offer from one of the editors who offered US$50 a story. It was too little for me because on average I earned 10 times that for a feature with a publication I write for. Besides, it was less than what I earned locally then. My salary was about US$200 a month then. And this is less than nine months ago. Now the website pays more than six months’ salary. I have not changed my mind about writing for them. I still have some principles, which most of my colleagues may be trashing because of the lure of the greenback. But I can’t blame them because I have choices. The major reason why I am staying home is that I have access to one of the things that most people flock to the diaspora for, foreign currency. But I don’t have the hassle of always constantly being reminded that I am a foreigner or a refugee. My job allows me to travel. Sometimes I pity those in the diaspora because every time I go out of the country, the questions I am asked are so irritating. One would think I am a member of President Robert Mugabe’s politburo. To make matters worse everyone expects me to start whining about how bad things are at home, how Mugabe has messed up the country so on. Yes, things are bad, but for the poor and those without access to foreign currency. If you have access to foreign currency in Zimbabwe, life can never be better anywhere else. That is why senior government officials and ministers are keeping their jobs and won’t let Mugabe go. Where in the world can you get something for $30 000 and sell it for $1 million. That’s how senior government officials survive. As long as I am allowed to free, or to be more precise as long as someone turns a blind eye to my freelancing, I won’t leave Zimbabwe. My only regret is that even with the money, there is nothing to buy. No bread. No meat. No milk. Perhaps that is what will make me quit.
Tags: Cost Of Living , Journalism , Freelance , Foreign Currency
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.