By Professor Sheunesu Mpepereki
IN this instalment, we continue to interrogate aspects of Zimbabwe’s US dollar craze.
It is all about Zimbabweans and their attitudes and priorities vis-a-vis economic development.
Admittedly, human factor decay is the single biggest threat to the successful building of a thriving modern Zimbabwe.
Who will rally the nation to the battle against corruption and neo-colonialism?
Who will guard our own local currency and not be tempted to jump ship and go with the US dollar wind?
The book titled Human Factor Approach to Development (University of Zimbabwe Publications) by Professor C.G. Mararike and the late Dr Vimbai G. Chivaura explores the various dimensions of the human factor in the national development process.
It is relevant to some of the issues we are discussing in this series of articles.
Put simply, it requires focused sustained human effort and endeavor to accomplish any feat in life, including societal organisation.
When the actors are compromised for any reason, the project fails to achieve the set targets.
Can we honestly say Zimbabweans are incapable of addressing our monetary challenges?
Are these challenges greater than the colonialism that we fought and defeated?
Or do we have a human factor challenge?
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has boldly stated that there are no good reasons for the dollar to continue sliding. They are putting in place strategies to limit funds transfer on certain electronic platforms which seem to have been the main avenues for channeling millions onto the black market to mop up any and all available US dollars, thereby destabilising exchange rates.
Retailers, also keen to cash in on the dollar craze, have been increasing commodity prices even with no regard to the factory prices they paid to order the goods.
They have also joined the few rich who are splashing their millions to mop up hard-to-get US dollars.
All this is part of what we term the ‘dollar craze’ and is attributable partly to human factor decay.
Are any of these dollar-crazy Zimbabweans thinking about building this country?
The previous generation fought and liberated the country from colonial bondage.
They died in their thousands to achieve that.
What legacy will this generation bequeath to the next one?
Many Zimbabweans now believe we have no laws in this country. If we have these laws or statutes, they do not apply to those using underhand means to acquire US dollars.
Law enforcement is no longer effective because the law enforcement value chain is severely compromised.
This is a major part of the human factor decay alluded to above.
The worker is stealing from his employer.
The financial staff are at the forefront, using all the tricks they learnt at commercial college and university to circumvent the regulations.
Loss control officers at companies collude with management to siphon resources from public and private organisations.
Where cases are brought before the courts, some lawyers collude with some court officials to frustrate the course of justice, while some judges and magistrates solicit for bribes so they can generate funds to also buy US dollars.
There is no question that Zimbabwe is a resource-rich country. However, the number of people who cannot explain the source of their wealth is alarmingly large.
This latest assault on the local currency versus the US dollar is a result of cash barons who have infiltrated the financial system.
Land barons have already turned our cities and town planning processes into a hopeless mess as they used land as the avenue to accumulate US dollars.
Those seeking to acquire agricultural land have been running back and forth with no success as they lack US dollars to bribe themselves onto the land.
What of the youths who have interest to go into agriculture? Where and how can they acquire US dollars to ‘buy their way’ to farms?
The dollar craze has permeated all aspects of Zimbabwe’s economy.
The authorities are nowhere near certain which way to go: de-dollarise or re-dollarise!
This is one aspect which made me understand what they call policy inconsistency (zindakupa zindakutorera).
Of course, COVID-19 put Zimbabwe on the spot.
The authorities relented to allow people to use the US dollar again to ease the severe stress associated with the lockdown and limited food supply.
On one hand, we believe there is enough forex in the pockets of Zimbabweans to meet our import needs, but at the same time, we have no way of laying our hands on that forex to use for essential imports.
So what do we have?
Many educated and urban-dwelling Zimbabweans seem to forget that the real majority of our population is located away out in rural areas.
Most of them have absolutely no access to US dollars, just like many urbanites and professionals working in the public sector do not earn US dollars.
It boggles the mind to think how we can talk of dollarising with a currency that is severely restricted and monitored.
Most US dollars are obtained by hook and by crook.
As for teachers, nurses and other Government workers demanding US dollar wages, I do not see how that is feasible with sanctions in place and a
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weak productive sector.
Because our economy is largely informal and unbanked, the US dollars will remain in pillows and not appear in the formal banking sector.
How can we persuade those who have ‘free’ funds to deposit them in the banks where they can be accessed to fund imports of essential goods?
Relevant stakeholders need to devise new models of organising our monetary system based on a local currency that we can control.
The country’s detractors are having a field day manipulating the currency so that the economy ‘screams’ and then people will vote the revolutionary Party ZANU PF out of power and usher in a puppet Government which promotes Western interests.
On Saturday last week, I stopped to buy some sweet potatoes somewhere in rural Mazowe.
A nine-year old girl refused to sell me sweet potatoes insisting she was under strict instructions from gogo (her grandmother) to accept payment in US dollars only.
I upped my offer to 250 Bond for a 15-litre bucket, but she insisted on US$5.
I drove off without the sweet potatoes: no US dollar, no potatoes!
In another incident, I was driving past a roadside vending point when my granddaughter asked me to stop so she could buy some items.
I gave her some bond notes as she wanted to buy some sweets.
I heard the vendor ask: “Ahh mfana, hauna maUS?” (Don’t you have US dollars?)
The little girl replied: “Hatina maUS isu! Kasi hamutori maBond here?” (No we only have Bond notes; do you not accept them as payment for your goods?)
The vendor knew me and responded: “Ahh sekuru venyu vangashaya maUS munhu waprofessor?” he said rather jokingly but I could tell he was seriously ‘fishing’ for US dollars and hoped that I would ‘bite’.
“Ndinokupai kana 20 maZappie paUS rimwe,” he continued. “Piwa mari nasekuru! Kana US rakabvaruka ndinotora!” (I will take even a torn US dollar note).
I found the vendor’s willingness to accept ‘torn’ US dollar notes rather contradictory.
Many vendors and tuck-shop owners now refuse to accept what they claim is ‘dirty’ or soiled money, even Bond notes with a small tear are not accepted.
One tuck-shop operator told me that the wholesalers from whom they order goods want only ‘clean’ money.
I suspect it is this ‘clean’ money that is part of millions being used to buy US dollars on the black market.
Significant numbers of traders never bank their sales receipts.
Well I did not ‘bite’ because, genuinely, I did not have any US dollars.
“Your grandfather should be having US dollars since he is a professor! Professor shuwa vangashaya US kana rimwe zvaro?” the vendor went on.
My nine-year old grand-daughter then replied: “But sekuru vanorima chibage nesoya.
“GMB inongovapa maBond iwaya.
“Kubasa kwavo mari yavo inoisiwa mufoni.
“Tinoona vachingoita EcoCash kana kuswaipa tikainda navo kuma ‘grocer’.
So there we are: The near rejection of our local currency in the mistaken belief that we can liquefy Zimbabwe’s economy using US dollars!
That is simply not possible, even if we did not have illegal economic sanctions imposed by the very US whose money we are crazy about.
Murenga Pfumojena Sororenzou, our great ancestral spirit is not dead.
He is still watching and guiding his people.
Those who seek to destroy Zimbabwe beware!
The struggle for economic independence continues!