THINGS FALL APART IN ZIMBABWE



Where are these men taking us? Mugabe and his men sleep as the country burns


Among his many literary exploits, Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe wrote two famous novels whose titles reflect what is happening in Zimbabwe today. One was “Things fall apart” and the other was “No longer at ease”. In Zimbabwe’s economic, social and political environment, things are falling apart and the nation is no longer at ease. I could add my own title, and say that “No one cares”If the utterances from president Robert Mugabe's ministers is anything to go by.
Friday 22 of September 2017 will be remembered for its similarities to Friday 13 November 1997, when the Zimbabwe dollar collapsed and never again recovered, earning the name Black Friday. On Friday 22 September 2017, all the economic fundamentals caved in. The Zimbond introduced in November last year as a surrogate currency pegged at par with the US $ collapsed with trading rates reportedly dropping to between 1:40 to 1:50 to the US$, and even higher for bank transfers. That week the banks were stripped of cash, both US$ and the bond, though the bond remained readily available on the streets at a premium. Prices of basic commodities shot up and items such as cooking oil, maize meal, sugar and other basic foods disappeared from the shops as the nation was plunged into a frenzy of panic buying. Fuel queues started snaking around petrol stations, and those lucky enough to get any were limited to small quantities that would not last them a week. Mobile money providers hiked fees for using mobile services to purchase items.
People started to wonder whether this was a return of the 2008 horrors of inflation and shortages. The talk was whether this time it would be worse, and the answer seems to be in the affirmative.
What has surprised many however is the reaction of the authorities which, has bordered between outright denial that this is happening, and the now famous conspiracy theories that this is a creation of social media.
The utterances by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa makes me wonder where these men in Robert Mugabe's government are taking us. For a whole minister to exhibit such a level of ignorance is criminal, to say the least.
I am still trying to get my head around the social media activities clamp down, the arrest of Clergyman Evan Mawarire for circulating videos of fuel shortages is outright madness. Can someone tell these men who are abusing the mandate we gave them to rule to wake up and smell the coffee? Pictures don't lie and better still, one can never rig the economy. When Zanu PF received a fresh mandate to rule following the 2013 elections, analysts predicted that the economy would be the albatross around Zanu PF's neck and this is exactly what we are seeing today.
And now they have gazetted a law criminalising unlicenced foreign currency dealers in Zimbabwe who now face jail sentences of up to 10 years. Really? Like seriously is this the solution to the problem Mr Chinamasa? Are we not treating the symptoms here at the expense of the real problem?
I am trying to make sense of what has precipitated this crisis, and why Zanu-PF and the government are burying its head in the sand like ostriches in denial.
Here is why.

In economics perceptions are reality
In economics, perceptions are as powerful as reality, for the simple reason that people act on those perceptions. If they don’t trust the banking system, they don’t deposit their money, and they withdraw whatever is in there, leading to the collapse of the banking system. That was the case during the former Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono era when people feared their accounts would be raided. If people suspect there would be price increases of basic commodities or shortages, they go on a buying spree and hoard goods, leading to the very same shortages and price increases that was a product of their perceptions. This is what is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.
History as the best teacher-everyone is an economist
The history of past economic failures has turned everyone in Zimbabwe into an economist. This history taught every Zimbabwean language such as “Dhora radonha”;( the dollar has fallen), or “Rate yakadhakwa nhasi” ( the rate is not good today)as common dictum on the streets of Harare. The exchange rate is set by the money changers at Road port and Joiner City, not the Reserve Bank. When the money changers started buying the USD at a premium, this indicated the lack of faith people had in the bond notes.
The market has a stubborn way of determining its own value of money. The lessons of 2008 were instructive in determining people’s behaviours last weekend as they lined up in shops to empty their mobile wallets of the little money they had in buying basics before either the money lost value or the prices of those basic commodities went up. In the process, the money was emptied from the banking system as the goods were emptied from the shops. Money lost its basic function as a store of value.
The Blame game
People including those in Zanu-PF blamed the Governor of the Reserve Bank, John Mangudya for the failure of the Bond notes to play its role as an equivalent store of value to the USD. Others blamed the speculative behaviour of traders for hoarding goods in anticipation of price increases. Yet others blamed social media for fueling rumours resulting in the reaction of panic buying.
In typical Zanu PF fashion, Government cracked down on the social media activists as enemies of the State bent on fomenting social unrest, and the Minister of Home Affairs issued a statement threatening to deal with such people. The firebrand “This Flag Movement” leader Pastor Evan Mawarire, was arrested on charges of fomenting social unrest. The beleaguered Minister of Finance, denied outrightly that there was a crisis, reminding all of Thabo Mbeki, then President of South Africa for infamously declaring in 2008 that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe when the country was burning. Really Mr Chinamasa?
None of these actions is dealing with the real problem. Why are people following social media rather than the official news from the government? Why does the state overreact to rumour, and use a hammer to crash a fly as it were?
A Crisis of Legitimacy:
From the onset, there was opposition to the introduction of the bond notes. Protests were organized by such groups as # This Flag, Tajamuka, and economists warned against the negative impact it would have on economic stability. Government railroaded the vote in parliament and swore the Bond was not a surrogate currency but an expert incentive backed by a loan from Afrexim bank. The bond was literally forced down the throats of an unwilling population. There was fear that this would be an avenue for printing money and for the return of the Zimbabwe dollar. That suspicion seemed to have been confirmed through the emergence of the Zimbond on the black market when it is not available in the banks.
There is also the realisation the economy is in comatose. Companies are not producing and imports far exceed exports. There is no inflow of foreign exchange other than remittances. Yet government displayed an insatiable appetite to consume foreign currency. The office of the President was the biggest culprit, for reaping where it did not sow. During his time as Minister of Finance in the Government of National Unity (GNU) between Zanu PF and MDC, Tendai Biti preached the gospel of; “You have to eat what you kill”. Sound gospel if you ask me! The crisis the country is facing now can only be declared as inevitable. How can we have the presidents office going on UN trips with the entire clan at the expense of the nation and expect things to be normal.
Going for Broke: Why they don’t seem to care.
The major difference between the reaction of Government in 2008 and now, is that this time, nobody seems to care. It seems someone has just given up and gone on a suicide mission. With elections beckoning, one would have expected some level of prudence and restraint. But here you have stories of financial recklessness coming out of the ruling party. The Presidents ‘wife buys property in South Africa; the president’s wife is involved in a scandal involving the purchase of a diamond ring costing in excess of USD1.2 million. The President’s stepson is involved in the purchase of two Rolls Royce cars worth more than half a million; The president takes a large entourage to the UN, far bigger than one would consider normal given the country’s current economic situation.
Taken against the background of a looming watershed election when Zanu PF is more divided than ever and has lost the support of its erstwhile election “attack dogs” in the War veterans, one would have expected a more circumspect behaviour by Zanu PF on matters such as the economy. One would be forgiven for thinking the behaviour is apocalyptic of the President, and he does not care that, too much about winning; he is literally tired.
Or is he so comfortable that the rigging machinery has been well oiled? What with the drama surrounding the discredited Bio-Metric Voter Registration (BVR), which the opposition is crying foul about because registration in the cities are no more than 72 per day, yet in the rural areas where Zanu PF purports to be strong as many as a 1000 people can be registered a day. The process is set to run until 15 January 2018 yet its moving so slowly as if to frustrate people wishing to register is part of their objectives. The opposition approached the courts for an urgent hearing, and the courts find nothing urgent in that application. Certainly, there is a huge gap between how the judiciaries in Kenya and Zimbabwe see the democratic process and the value of elections in their respective countries. So, if the election is just a process whose outcome is already pre-determined, there is no real motivation to behave.
Unless of course, someone forces the government.


Opposition Paralysis
This is where the opposition should come in. The current situation should be a gift on a silver platter for the opposition to mount serious pressure to discredit the government.
There is a deafening silence from the opposition when it comes to raising the voice on things that matter. Where is the opposition in the crisis that is unfolding in Zimbabwe? Shortages just come and go; people get arrested and charged without any hue and cry. When the nation rose to stand together with Mawarire in July 2016, Government was shaken. Today Mawarire has again been arrested, where is everybody? Matemadanda has been a regular visitor to the courts and he seems to be fighting alone too. Morgan Tsvangirai may not be feeling well, but leaders have issued directions from hospital beds and prison cells and they can stir people to action. In Zimbabwe, there is that lack of courage and tactical timing that is needed. Our problem is that those with the numbers do not have the courage and strategic timing while those with the strategic timing and courage do not have the numbers.
Unless some synergy and alignment can be worked out, we need lots of prayers to dislodge the regime that nobody (and I mean nobody) wants anymore.

Where are these men taking us?
Among his many literary exploits, Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe wrote two famous novels whose titles reflect what is happening in Zimbabwe today. One was “Things fall apart” and the other was “No longer at ease”. In Zimbabwe’s economic, social and political environment, things are falling apart and the nation is no longer at ease. I could add my own title, and say that “No one cares”If the utterances from president Robert Mugabe's ministers is anything to go by.
Friday 22 of September 2017 will be remembered for its similarities to Friday 13 November 1997, when the Zimbabwe dollar collapsed and never again recovered, earning the name Black Friday. On Friday 22 September 2017, all the economic fundamentals caved in. The Zimbond introduced in November last year as a surrogate currency pegged at par with the US $ collapsed with trading rates reportedly dropping to between 1:40 to 1:50 to the US$, and even higher for bank transfers. That week the banks were stripped of cash, both US$ and the bond, though the bond remained readily available on the streets at a premium. Prices of basic commodities shot up and items such as cooking oil, maize meal, sugar and other basic foods disappeared from the shops as the nation was plunged into a frenzy of panic buying. Fuel queues started snaking around petrol stations, and those lucky enough to get any were limited to small quantities that would not last them a week. Mobile money providers hiked fees for using mobile services to purchase items.
People started to wonder whether this was a return of the 2008 horrors of inflation and shortages. The talk was whether this time it would be worse, and the answer seems to be in the affirmative.
What has surprised many however is the reaction of the authorities which, has bordered between outright denial that this is happening, and the now famous conspiracy theories that this is a creation of social media.
The utterances by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa makes me wonder where these men in Robert Mugabe's government are taking us. For a whole minister to exhibit such a level of ignorance is criminal, to say the least.
I am still trying to get my head around the social media activities clamp down, the arrest of Clergyman Evan Mawarire for circulating videos of fuel shortages is outright madness. Can someone tell these men who are abusing the mandate we gave them to rule to wake up and smell the coffee? Pictures don't lie and better still, one can never rig the economy. When Zanu PF received a fresh mandate to rule following the 2013 elections, analysts predicted that the economy would be the albatross around Zanu PF's neck and this is exactly what we are seeing today.
And now they have gazetted a law criminalising unlicenced foreign currency dealers in Zimbabwe who now face jail sentences of up to 10 years. Really? Like seriously is this the solution to the problem Mr Chinamasa? Are we not treating the symptoms here at the expense of the real problem?
I am trying to make sense of what has precipitated this crisis, and why Zanu-PF and the government are burying its head in the sand like ostriches in denial.
Here is why.

In economics perceptions are reality
In economics, perceptions are as powerful as reality, for the simple reason that people act on those perceptions. If they don’t trust the banking system, they don’t deposit their money, and they withdraw whatever is in there, leading to the collapse of the banking system. That was the case during the former Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono era when people feared their accounts would be raided. If people suspect there would be price increases of basic commodities or shortages, they go on a buying spree and hoard goods, leading to the very same shortages and price increases that was a product of their perceptions. This is what is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.
History as the best teacher-everyone is an economist
The history of past economic failures has turned everyone in Zimbabwe into an economist. This history taught every Zimbabwean language such as “Dhora radonha”;( the dollar has fallen), or “Rate yakadhakwa nhasi” ( the rate is not good today)as common dictum on the streets of Harare. The exchange rate is set by the money changers at Road port and Joiner City, not the Reserve Bank. When the money changers started buying the USD at a premium, this indicated the lack of faith people had in the bond notes.
The market has a stubborn way of determining its own value of money. The lessons of 2008 were instructive in determining people’s behaviours last weekend as they lined up in shops to empty their mobile wallets of the little money they had in buying basics before either the money lost value or the prices of those basic commodities went up. In the process, the money was emptied from the banking system as the goods were emptied from the shops. Money lost its basic function as a store of value.
The Blame game
People including those in Zanu-PF blamed the Governor of the Reserve Bank, John Mangudya for the failure of the Bond notes to play its role as an equivalent store of value to the USD. Others blamed the speculative behaviour of traders for hoarding goods in anticipation of price increases. Yet others blamed social media for fueling rumours resulting in the reaction of panic buying.
In typical Zanu PF fashion, Government cracked down on the social media activists as enemies of the State bent on fomenting social unrest, and the Minister of Home Affairs issued a statement threatening to deal with such people. The firebrand “This Flag Movement” leader Pastor Evan Mawarire, was arrested on charges of fomenting social unrest. The beleaguered Minister of Finance, denied outrightly that there was a crisis, reminding all of Thabo Mbeki, then President of South Africa for infamously declaring in 2008 that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe when the country was burning. Really Mr Chinamasa?
None of these actions is dealing with the real problem. Why are people following social media rather than the official news from the government? Why does the state overreact to rumour, and use a hammer to crash a fly as it were?
A Crisis of Legitimacy:
From the onset, there was opposition to the introduction of the bond notes. Protests were organized by such groups as # This Flag, Tajamuka, and economists warned against the negative impact it would have on economic stability. Government railroaded the vote in parliament and swore the Bond was not a surrogate currency but an expert incentive backed by a loan from Afrexim bank. The bond was literally forced down the throats of an unwilling population. There was fear that this would be an avenue for printing money and for the return of the Zimbabwe dollar. That suspicion seemed to have been confirmed through the emergence of the Zimbond on the black market when it is not available in the banks.
There is also the realisation the economy is in comatose. Companies are not producing and imports far exceed exports. There is no inflow of foreign exchange other than remittances. Yet government displayed an insatiable appetite to consume foreign currency. The office of the President was the biggest culprit, for reaping where it did not sow. During his time as Minister of Finance in the Government of National Unity (GNU) between Zanu PF and MDC, Tendai Biti preached the gospel of; “You have to eat what you kill”. Sound gospel if you ask me! The crisis the country is facing now can only be declared as inevitable. How can we have the presidents office going on UN trips with the entire clan at the expense of the nation and expect things to be normal.
Going for Broke: Why they don’t seem to care.
The major difference between the reaction of Government in 2008 and now, is that this time, nobody seems to care. It seems someone has just given up and gone on a suicide mission. With elections beckoning, one would have expected some level of prudence and restraint. But here you have stories of financial recklessness coming out of the ruling party. The Presidents ‘wife buys property in South Africa; the president’s wife is involved in a scandal involving the purchase of a diamond ring costing in excess of USD1.2 million. The President’s stepson is involved in the purchase of two Rolls Royce cars worth more than half a million; The president takes a large entourage to the UN, far bigger than one would consider normal given the country’s current economic situation.
Taken against the background of a looming watershed election when Zanu PF is more divided than ever and has lost the support of its erstwhile election “attack dogs” in the War veterans, one would have expected a more circumspect behaviour by Zanu PF on matters such as the economy. One would be forgiven for thinking the behaviour is apocalyptic of the President, and he does not care that, too much about winning; he is literally tired.
Or is he so comfortable that the rigging machinery has been well oiled? What with the drama surrounding the discredited Bio-Metric Voter Registration (BVR), which the opposition is crying foul about because registration in the cities are no more than 72 per day, yet in the rural areas where Zanu PF purports to be strong as many as a 1000 people can be registered a day. The process is set to run until 15 January 2018 yet its moving so slowly as if to frustrate people wishing to register is part of their objectives. The opposition approached the courts for an urgent hearing, and the courts find nothing urgent in that application. Certainly, there is a huge gap between how the judiciaries in Kenya and Zimbabwe see the democratic process and the value of elections in their respective countries. So, if the election is just a process whose outcome is already pre-determined, there is no real motivation to behave.
Unless of course, someone forces the government.
Opposition Paralysis
This is where the opposition should come in. The current situation should be a gift on a silver platter for the opposition to mount serious pressure to discredit the government.
There is a deafening silence from the opposition when it comes to raising the voice on things that matter. Where is the opposition in the crisis that is unfolding in Zimbabwe? Shortages just come and go; people get arrested and charged without any hue and cry. When the nation rose to stand together with Mawarire in July 2016, Government was shaken. Today Mawarire has again been arrested, where is everybody? Matemadanda has been a regular visitor to the courts and he seems to be fighting alone too. Morgan Tsvangirai may not be feeling well, but leaders have issued directions from hospital beds and prison cells and they can stir people to action. In Zimbabwe, there is that lack of courage and tactical timing that is needed. Our problem is that those with the numbers do not have the courage and strategic timing while those with the strategic timing and courage do not have the numbers.
Unless some synergy and alignment can be worked out, we need lots of prayers to dislodge the regime that nobody (and I mean nobody) wants anymore.





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