The sight of a goat in a holding cage at the local police station this week couldn’t help but cause a ripple of suppressed hysteria. There are many things it’s not safe or wise to photograph or laugh at in Zimbabwe and a goat in the police station definitely falls into both categories. Easily visible to passers-by, the dark brown goat wasn’t struggling or going round in circles, instead it stood calmly looking out, leaving us with a rash of questions. Was this lunch? Dinner? Was the animal confiscated? Apprehended? Under investigation? Or, more likely, was it school fees?
Zimbabweans, after seventeen years of losing everything, have managed to not lose their sense of humour and for the last few weeks the joke has been about goats and school fees. It started when the Minister of Education said that parents who couldn’t afford to pay school fees could either pay with their own labour or with livestock such as a goats.
Goats for school fees? Are you joking? In 2007 and 2008 when Zimbabwe was at the height of economic collapse and multi billion percent hyper inflation, we were paying school fees with things such as petrol coupons, vehicle tyres and dry groceries but 2017 sees us sinking to new lows when goats become the medium of exchange for tuition.
Within days we were awash with jokes: Do you take goat? was the question we were all asking wherever we went shopping. What do you give for change? was the next question: a tuft of hair, handful of droppings? If a goat costs US $50, how many do I need to pay a term’s fees for my child? Visions of the first day of term with thousands of goats milling around and a rising crescendo of baaa-ing, finally left us all in a state of stunned contempt. It comes at a time when the queues outside banks are in their thousands as parents desperately trying and withdraw their salaries as they prepare for the winter school term which opens next week.
The cash crisis is now so serious in Zimbabwe that the Reserve Bank have just announced a new “framework for retailers” including the requirement to bank all cash within 24 hours; not to charge different prices for the same item depending on the mode of payment; not to give more than $20 cash back on credit card transactions and not to offer discounts for cash. For retailers unable to get their money out of the bank it was already a nightmare trying to get replacement stock , but the new “framework” is a disaster.
Unbelievably it’s been a year since all the US dollars disappeared from our banks but we continue to hang on by the skin of our teeth and still want to know: Where did all the US dollars go?
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy. 29th April 2017 .Copyright � Cathy Buckle