I try my best to avoid making politically-inspired conclusions – since these are not always the best for the country and people, including myself.
Surely, what sense is there in condemning something that will even be good for me and my family – or, commending flawed policies that have the potential danger of ruining us?
No one in their right mind would want to live in pain and suffering – thereby, wishing his own country a bad omen and harm – and, that is what motivates me to make statements on the country’s trajectory, that are informed and truly patriotic, as this has to do with our very existence and survival.
Ever since the so-called “new dispensation” came into power – on the back of a military coup d’etat in November 2017, that toppled long-time dictator Robert Gabriel Mugabe – arguably, the most contentious issue that has relentlessly dogged the regime has been the reintroduction of the local currency, the Zimbabwe dollar (ZW$).
To say that its reemergence in our lives in 2019 has been nothing short of nightmarish and devastating, would be a gross understatement – since, this was the single most outstanding factor in the misery and utter destruction of the livelihoods of millions of Zimbabweans – who, as it may be difficult to fathom, had had a relatively stable and peaceful life since 2009.
This was after another near-decade of horrendous turbulence – characterized by record-breaking and world-famous hyperinflation, at the behest of the same local currency, whose value depreciated spectacularly, such that even future economics students all over the globe will use that as a case study in how not to run a country.
Who would fail to talk about a month-on-month inflation figure of 76,600,000,000 per cent, and a year-on-year rate of 89.7 sextillion percent – as was so shockingly and terrifyingly witnessed in mid-November 2008?
Of course, with the coming in of a GNU (government of national unity) between the ruling ZANU PF, and opposition MDC parties – after the humiliating defeat of incumbent Mugabe, at the hands of Morgan Richard Tsvangirai in the March 2008 first-round presidential elections, and the subsequent most brutal and heinous reign of terror unleashed on the population by the regime – a multi-currency system was introduced, which brought some measure of sanity and stability in Zimbabweans’ lives for the next nine years.
That is until, the military junta led by Mugabe’s former decades-long protege and sacked vice president, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, for some strange reason, found it prudent to reintroduce this same discredited local currency – thereby, potentially taking the country back to that harrowing era of the early 2000s.
Based on events on the ground, that is precisely the dark cloud which is menacingly and threateningly hovering over our heads – with the prices of basic commodities shooting through the roof at breakneck speed, effectively rendering them out of the reach of millions of Zimbabweans.
In fact, I was recently filled with dread reading a notice posted in a renowned supermarket, warning customers that displayed prices could increase without notice – a haunting reminder of those early 2000s, when the price of a commodity could be increased more than ten times whilst waiting in the queue at the tills.
I have been following closely the recent heated debate between the RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) governor, John Mangudya, and the business organization CZI (Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries), as regards the government’s handling of this emotive issue.
I have intently listened to both sides – with the Harare administration insisting that their management of the local currency and foreign exchange system was up to scratch, and that the Zimbabwe dollar was here to stay as it had enabled local industries to thrive (thereby, leading to a marked increase in our own goods and services dominating the market), and in the end creating more employment opportunities for the citizenry.
On the other hand, ironically, the same industries that the government insists is helping by its monetary policies – which have resulted in the local currency losing value spectacularly over a relatively short course of time, at the moment hovering around US$1 to ZW$350 – have not pulled any punches, in their criticism of the disjointed manner the foreign currency auction system has been mismanaged, which has been the main cause of the depreciation.
As much as the CZI did not call for the scrapping of the seemingly useless local currency – they were, however, adamant that the prevailing foreign currency auction system be suspended pending the formulation and implementation of sound management policies.
Nonetheless, not being an economist myself – I could not help wondering one main aspect – why is the government stubbornly sticking to a policy which is undeniably wrecking so much havoc in ordinary citizens’ livelihoods?
Surely, when a 5kg bag of mealie meal – the most basic and a staple of every Zimbabwean’s sustenance – can be sold at ZW$1,000, yet a teacher earning an average of ZW$30,000 per month, how are the rest of us, who live from hand to mouth, expected to survive?
Let us not forget that, this is a country where over 76% of the population lives far below the food poverty datum line – with February 2022 figures showing that this was at ZW$6,660 for one person, and the total consumption poverty line for one person at ZW$9,144 – figures that have, obviously, since skyrocketed.
The questions on my mind are simply these – since, even the government of Zimbabwe is already also charging for some of its own major services, such as passports, and pegging fuel prices in US dollars – why the hotheaded continued insistence on the Zimbabwe dollar for the rest of us?
Is it not apparent that the economy has already substantially redollarized – with all prices in our supermarkets being pegged at the more reflective black market exchange rate?
Why would the country’s leadership watch, as Zimbabweans sink deeper and deeper into untold poverty and suffering?
Maybe, the answer is staring us right in our faces, if we cared to look carefully.
What currency are those in the ruling elite receiving their salaries? Are they paid in Zimbabwe dollars?
Anyone who believes that would be an unmitigated fool!
As far as I am concerned, the only reason this regime could not care less whether we have something to eat today or not, is simply on account of the leadership themselves not feeling the same pain and anguish as the rest of us.
They are divorced and far detached from the reality of the suffering of Zimbabweans – thus, their sickening obsession with such empty statements as “there’s no country on earth that doesn’t have its own currency”, and “we can’t have our own monetary policy controlled by other countries”.
For them, it is purely a matter of ego and pride – regardless of how that is ravaging the lives of ordinary citizens.
When the economic environment is not yet conducive to the reintroduction of a local currency – as good sounding as that may be – then, why push for it?
If only the president himself earned his salary in Zimbabwe dollars and could feel the agonizing pain of the people he purports to lead – he would have changed his tune a long time ago.
However, I do not see any changes, any time soon, as those in power live in a different Zimbabwe than the rest of us.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]Post published in: Featured