Who is afraid of the return of the Zimbabwe dollar?

“The interpretation that underdevelopment is somehow ordained by God is emphasised because of the racist trend in European scholarship,” Walter Rodney wrote more than 40 years ago in his book: How Europe underdeveloped Africa.

“It is in line with racist prejudice to say openly or to imply that their countries are more developed because their people are innately superior, and that the responsibility for the economic backwardness of Africa lies in the generic backwardness of the race of black Africans.

“An even bigger problem is that the people of Africa and other parts of the colonised world have gone through a cultural and psychological crisis and have accepted at least partially the European version of things.

“That means that the African himself has doubts about his capacity to transform and develop his natural environment. With such doubts, he even challenges those of his brothers who say that Africa can and will develop through the efforts of its own people.”

Though Rodney’s book was written more than a decade before Zimbabwe’s independence, his statement is true today, 33 years after the country’s independence.

One hears this same argument day after day in the media by so-called economic analysts who are against the return of the Zimbabwe dollar and have already written off the Zimbabwe Agenda for Socio-Economic Transformation as a failure.

And these arguments carry more weight when they are raised by black Zimbabweans, especially the academically gifted.

But the question still has to be asked: Who is afraid of the return of the Zimbabwe dollar? Is it the peasants who constitute the majority of the population? Is it business? Which business sector?

Indeed, as a Zimbabwean who was working and living in Zimbabwe during the years of hyperinflation, I lost quite a lot when the local currency was abandoned, but that is not good enough a reason to say that the dollar should not return.

What Zimbabweans must look into is who caused the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar? It was not the peasants, they did not have access to any foreign currency, let alone, the Zimbabwe dollar itself? It was not the small man who changed the little money he got from relatives abroad through abo usiphateleni?

It was big business which had access to foreign currency or unlimited Zimbabwe dollars, the people that wrote cheques for amounts that even the central bank did not have.

For me, all these reasons are immaterial. Let’s talk about the here and now. Assuming that the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front won the 31 July elections because of its promises to consolidate land reform and empower the people- which no one has so far successfully challenged- the return of the Zimbabwe dollar should be part of the package. It is one aspect of empowerment.

A country without its own currency, no matter how weak, is not a country. While the United States dollar and the South African rand appear to have brought some stability, they have also brought their own problems.

Prices in Zimbabwe are just too high. Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi said the US dollar has been misunderstood post 2008, in terms of its purchasing power parity because what it buys locally is just ten percent of what it will buy in South Africa and elsewhere.

“It is a systemic evil in our society which must be addressed from all angles, starting with the person who produces tomatoes and onions, if we are going to open windows for our farmers to supply animal based and agricultural products into the hospitality industry. We are not saying buying Zimbabwe is buying expensive. So, we must go back to the drawing board…..

“It is in this country where you buy a hamburger at the most expensive price, sometimes at the value of US$15 but a hamburger is just US$1 elsewhere,” he said.

This is one of the reasons why the Zimbabwe dollar must come back. This dollar for 10 or dollar for four, must stop. People are forced to buy 10 or four things when they need one. This is unnecessary waste. Proponents for the US dollar might argue that maybe the solution is to get change, that is, US coins.

It could be, but the greater and untold damage, is through externalisation. Zimbabwe is currently the only country is the region where one does not go through the foreign exchange department of the bank to get US dollars officially. You get them from the Automatic Teller Machine.

The recent case of a Chinese who was arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle ivory, saying in open court that government officials had stolen US$7 000 cash that was in his wallet when he was arrested should have rung alarm bells.

Why was this carrying so much cash? How many others are taking out cash like him? How much? To a business person $7 000 might appear to be little money but in South Africa, the country most people want to compare with Zimbabwe you cannot even take out the equivalent of US$1 000 in rands unless this is cleared and you have a letter from the bank.

According to Global Financial Integrity, Zimbabwe lost US$4 billion between 2000 and 2009. This was the period when its currency was worthless. Imagine how much it is losing now that it is using the United States dollar?

Zimbabwe set aside less than this amount to run the entire country in 2013.

Those who are against the return of the Zimbabwe dollar, if they are not representing big business capitalising on the US dollar, are doing so for narrow and selfish reasons. They are not looking at the bigger picture.

Right now the country is going through a liquidity crunch. How did it come about? Definitely it was not the raid on banks by ordinary people panicking about the ZANU-PF victory. They do not have that kind of money in the banks.

It was not the salaried people because the banks are just a conduit. Money comes in and goes out immediately.

It was the big fish that withdrew billions? Now the question that must be answered is where did they take the money to? But more importantly why did the banks allow them to withdraw such vast amounts?

Banks must answer because it is the small man that is now suffering. The very person who does not care whether he is using the US dollar or the Zimbabwean dollar as long as the currency can purchase what he or she needs.

A lawyer who represents big business told The Insider that Zimbabweans were not aware how lucrative Zimbabwe was for foreign business. They were always talking about lack of foreign direct investment into the country when foreign business people were flocking into the county every day.

He said when he wanted to book a suite at the world-class Meikles Hotel for his client, he was told all suites were all fully booked. He needed to book at least six months in advance. The suites rage from US$361 to US$1 000 a night. These people cannot spend that kind of money for nothing, yet someone has the guts to tell the people that Zimbabwe is not good for business.

Those who are against the return of the Zimbabwe dollar are also indirectly saying one thing. They are not disciplined enough. Yes, the tendency is to blame it all on the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and the central bank- yes they are culprits too- but it is time that ordinary Zimbabweans learnt to take control of things.

Politicians do not change unless they are forced to by the people. The elections in the past13 years have shown how powerful our electorate is. When ZANU-PF played too clever in 2000, it nearly lost the elections to the Movement for Democratic Change.

The MDC became too arrogant within five years and had its wings clipped in 2005. ZANU-PF thought it had everything in the bag after 2005 but was shocked in 2008 when it lost to the MDC. The MDC got its surprise by taking people for granted in 2013.

This is the real Zimbabwe. People having their say? What do they say about the return of the Zimbabwe dollar? Nobody knows because this has been reduced to an academic debate with little relevance to how the US dollar is impacting on the majority of the people.

A people without national pride are a dead people. And national pride has nothing to do with belonging to ZANU-PF or the MDC. It is about loving Zimbabwe- and making both ZANU-PF and MDC accountable and responding to the people’s needs.

Back to Rodney, he says, “if economic power is centred outside of national African boundaries, then political and military power in any real sense is also centred outside until and unless the masses of peasants and workers are mobilised to offer an alternative to the system of sham political independence”.

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