Currency dealers pray for Mugabe

HARARE - Twenty-two year old Simbarashe Gumbo stashes wads of cash in the boot of his white Toyota Corolla as he clandestinely conducts his "business" at Roadport bus terminus, a busy rendezvous for Harare's illegal foreign currency dealers. Gumbo and the rest of his fellow dealers appear not to

give a damn about the police who are deployed at the terminus to stamp out illegal foreign currency deals. Police or no police, it is business as usual for these daring forex traders.

Gumbo has also established an intricate network of clients ranging from Harare’s well-to-do black entrepreneurs to the few white businessmen still in Harare who sometimes come asking for amounts as much as US$5 000.

But while the rest of Zimbabweans are battling to put food on the table, Gumbo and a few other foreign currency dealers in Harare pray that President Robert Mugabe, accused by his critics of ruining the country’s economy, remains solidly at the helm for the foreseeable future.

It is in this chaotic dog-eat-dog economic environment that Gumbo and many others have found economic prosperity.

“I do not support ZANU PF (Mugabe’s ruling party). In fact, I do not even know most of these top government officials and I have never gone to a polling station to vote but I want the situation to remain like this as that is one way that I am guaranteed of survival,” says Gumbo.

Zimbabwe is grappling a severe economic crisis that has seen inflation, described by Mugabe as the country’s “enemy number one”, shooting beyond 500 percent. Prices of basic commodities are constantly on the upward rise.

Food, fuel and essential medicines are also in critical short supply because there is no hard cash to pay foreign suppliers.

Mugabe denies ruining the country’s economy blaming the crisis on sabotage by Britain and its Western allies whom he says were unhappy over his seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks five years ago.

For someone who spent four long years searching for formal employment, Gumbo wonders where he would be if the economic situation had remained stable in Zimbabwe.

The majority of Zimbabweans are living beyond the poverty datum line as 70 percent of the country’s labour force are jobless after thousands of factories shut down owing to the tough economic environment.

Gumbo is among the few in Harare who have mastered the art of survival in a very tough environment. What he does on the streets, dubbed “kukorokoza” – in street lingo – has definitely put food on his family’s table.

But for those watching this soap opera unravel in Harare, what they are doing translates to milking a dying cow.

The few who are still working in Zimbabwe can hardly survive on their pitiable salaries of about Z$3 million (about US$33) a month. Most have been forced to engage in “petty trade” selling anything from home-made peanut butter to chickens to supplement their diminishing incomes.

Corruption has also thrived in this tough environment where even acts of kindness like helping someone push-start his vehicle triggers wild demands of “mari yecoca-cola” (What is in it for me?).

The economic crisis worsened last year after Mugabe sanctioned the demolition of thousands of houses and backyard shacks in a campaign he said was necessary to restore order in cities and towns and smash a burgeoning foreign currency parallel market.

The United Nations, human rights groups and churches all criticised the clean-up operation calling it a violation of the rights of the poor. But Mugabe angrily rejected the criticism denying that there was a crisis in the country.

The veteran Zimbabwean leader has also denied in the past that Zimbabweans were starving saying the country had “heaps and heaps” of potatoes.

But with Mugabe firmly in charge after presiding over the country’s economic collapse, it is only people like Gumbo who feel the veteran leader should continue in power to facilitate the further milking of the country’s dry adder. – ZimOnline

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Post published in: Economy

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