175 quadrillion old Zimbabwe dollars equals five US dollars

By Benjamin Semwayo

A Jeopardy video clip doing the rounds on the social media reignited the controversy over the mismanagement of the economy by Zanu PF. Jeopardy is an American TV game in which contestants are asked general knowledge questions.

Benjamin Semwayo
Benjamin Semwayo

In this particular episode of the programme a young lady is asked the following question: If you turned in 175 quadrillion of this country’s old currency in 2015 you would get five US dollars. After hesitating for a moment and looking rather sheepish, she hesitantly answers, ‘Zimbabwe?’

She gets it right and in the process drops a bombshell that Mugabe would rather not have you hear. The true damage that Zanu PF caused to the economy is kept under wraps through propaganda churned out by the government’s apologists but this moment on Jeopardy blew the lid off.

In 2009 Zimbabwe’s inflation rate reportedly reached the all-time high of  6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion percent.

When we thought that the humiliation to which we were subjected for the sins of our self-imposed rulers was behind us our old wounds are rudely opened as the sorry state of our country’s economy is beamed onto the international screen for all to behold.

There are many countries in the world grappling with financial challenges but Zimbabwe beats them all. In fact no country in living memory has performed quite as badly as Zimbabwe in mismanaging the economy. The world is a big place, and for a country to earn the reputation of having the world’s worst economy it must have more than spectacularly been mismanaged.

I got wind of this revelation because the other day I bumped into Fred, a friend of mine from another African country, and he announced rather animatedly, with dilated eyes and a mischievous grin, that he had a question he wanted to ask me.

Having on many occasions been subjected to the indignity of being compelled to explain some surreal goings on in the corridors of power of my country, my heart immediately sank with dejection because I knew what was coming. ‘Not again,’ I thought. ‘I hope it’s nothing to do with why we let Mugabe get away with blatantly illegitimate actions.’

The guy asked me whether I had watched Jeopardy on the 19th of December. ‘What on earth is Jeopardy,’ I thought, confused, but relieved that at least it was not about negative news about my country. Not wishing to be thought of as someone who was out of touch with the in-thing, I lied that I had been too busy to watch it.

Fred chuckled, more mischievous than at first, then give me a brief rundown of what the programme had been about. He told me that he had been alerted to the development through a WhatsApp message and sent the said message to my phone there as we stood talking.

Seeing that there was no point in trying to deny the incontrovertible fact quoted by a reputable international establishment I admitted that that was the truth and resignedly explained that it was not a new thing. I told that my friend that my country’s economy had been shredded so much that the people were past caring.

I told him that at any given time there was something untoward happening and the few shenanigans of the government officials that entered the public domain were only the tip of an iceberg: more repulsive events were going on unreported. I told him that many cases of corruption had come to light but no one had been penalised for them.

Commissions of enquiry had been set up but had been stage-managed and had only succeeded in gobbling more of the tax-payers’ cash with nothing to show for their achievements or usefulness. I told him that that was why many government officials broke the law with impunity. I ended up sending him a WhatsApp message that I had received about scandals by government officials that either had not claimed any scalps or had only resulted in token punishments.

These are the unfortunate experiences that Zimbabweans are forced to re-live every day. We hang our heads in shame when our country is deservingly ridiculed for the beastly behaviour of our self-anointed leaders who unjustifiably seek to lead hedonistic lifestyles at the expense of the majority of the people.

They have pillaged our country and their desire for more knows no bounds. Thieving on a scale larger than the industrial scale incurring toe-curling losses has become the run of the mill, perpetrated by the very people who are meant to be the custodians of the national coffers.

We have found ourselves in this unenviable predicament because of atrocious actions by Zanu  PF officials. They have externalised funds and they have printed money; they have introduced bad policies incongruous with foreign investment and they have caused company closures. They have even misappropriated cash in the national coffers and converted to their own use donor funds.

At independence Zimbabwe had billions of dollars in gold bullion held by the Reserve Bank, but in 2014 Chinamasa shocked the nation when he told parliament that only about £500 000 was left without saying where the rest went to. It is corruption in high places that has depleted our financial resources and threatens to bury the nation in the worst poverty known to man.

Zimbabwe was the centre piece of Africa with the best roads and a vibrant rail network that extended into neighbouring Botswana, but now roads are pot-hole-ridden and the freight transported by the national railways has dwindled sharply, with train drivers compelled to communicate by mobile phones as rail signals are non-existent and locomotives are in acutely short supply.

Air Zimbabwe, which was one of the continent’s best airlines, much sought after in the business of servicing planes from other countries, is now history, without a single plane after its planes were seized for non-payment of debts.

Buildings that formerly housed the Cold Storage Commission are now empty shells inhabited by owls and jackals, and agriculture, once that backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, is limping towards its demise as the country is forced to import grain, though it once reigned unchallenged as the bread basket of Africa.

With a government like this, how could 175 quadrillion not have the value of only five US dollars in 2015? As Zimbabweans we need to show ourselves some respect and stop this tommy rot.


This is the Whatsapp message I forwarded to Fred:


(1982) The Paweniscandal .
(1986) National Railways Housing Scandal
(1986) Air Zimbabwe Fokker Plane Scandal worth $100 million
(1987), Zisco Steel blast Furnace Scandal
(1987) Willowgate Scandal
(1988) ZRP Santana Scandal
(1989) War Victims Compensation Scandal
(1994) GMB Grain Scandal
(1995) VIP Housing Scandal
(1996) Boka Banking Scandal
(1998)ZESA YTL Soltran Scandal
(1998) Harare City Council Refuse Tender Scandal
(1998) Housing Loan Scandal
(1999) Noczim Scandal
(1999) GMB Scandal
(1999) Ministry of water and rural development Chinese tender scandal
(1999) Harare Airport Scandal
(2001) pillaging and milking of Ziscosteel.
(2005-8) pillaging of diamonds in Chiadzwa
(2006-present) the Airport Road Scandal
(2008) pillaging of the central bank.
(2014)salary gate Scandal
(2014)navistar insurance Scandal
(2015) air zimbabwe scandal
(2015)Zinara procurement Scandal
(2015)Zesa Scandal
(2015)Psmas Scandal
(2016) Jonathan Moyo

 Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list. There are many others such as Gideon Gono’s Looting of the Reserve Bank (2006-2009), the $15 Billion diamond scandal and Grace Mugabe’s numerous scandals, which are conspicuous by their absence from this list.

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