The currency move has not been popular, triggering lawsuits and street protests amid fears the introduction of the bond notes could lead to the reintroduction of the Zimbabwe dollar, ditched when the country effectively dollarised in 2009, after being ravaged by inflation which reached 500 billion percent in December 2008.
The bond notes have, however, enjoyed widespread acceptance in the dollar-starved economy since their introduction last November, with the transacting public left without much of a choice.
Mugabe’s birthday rallies — national events held annually since 1986 — are fashioned as occasions for the youth, but the president rarely addresses quite possibly the biggest issue facing that demographic — unemployment.
Yesterday was no exception. He, however, did speak about jobs. American jobs.
Shifting sharply from admonishing ambitious party lieutenants jostling to succeed him, Mugabe spoke about US President Donald Trump, a new-found favourite subject of his.
“I listened to Trump in Maryland yesterday and his message was America for Americans. American jobs for Americans,” Mugabe said, pausing for effect, with evident amusement.
“For you to want to go to America to look for a job is stupid. People are being deported there.”
Mugabe asked, in his Shona language, why any Zimbabwean would seek employment outside the country.
Few take Zimbabwe’s official jobless rate of 11 percent seriously. Independent economists say only one in 10 Zimbabweans is formally employed, giving rise to acute levels of poverty.
Zimbabwe’s unemployment crisis is blamed on Mugabe’s policies — such as the seizure from 2000 onwards of white-owned farms which devastated a key anchor of the economy — as well as a law requiring foreign firms to have majority local shareholding.
Yesterday, Mugabe — in power since independence in 1980 — strongly suggested he has a life-long mandate, emphatically dashing any hopes he could retire soon and allow the country to take a new economic direction.
“Some say Mugabe must now go. Where? I ask,” he said, supporting his head with the heel of his palm.
In a rare outward display of emotion early in his speech, Mugabe reflected on how he had lost all but one of his siblings.
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