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Bond notes: Will Mugabe come to rescue?

By Cyril Zenda

Two things that are sure about death are its certainty and finality. Reference is being made to death in the physical sense, not the spiritual side of things.

President Robert Mugabe

 

Because of this, many human beings are scared to death about death, even though they cannot do anything to stop it.

What makes it a double tragedy is that most of them are not just in denial about the realities of death, but they are also in denial about being in denial.

It was because of this denial that in ancient times, when a person died, the body had to be watched over for several days until grieving relatives were certain that the person was really dead… this usually lasted for several days until the odour became so unbearable that the relatives would unanimously agree to have their loved one buried.

It is from these horrible experiences involving all-night vigils and continuous praying over the deceased that the term funeral wake originated from.

Even when the body was finally buried, a rope would still be attached to the deceased’s hand leading to a bell outside the coffin so that it could alert people in case the recently buried person was not dead.

It was from this practice that the term “saved by the bell” originated.

These were some of the desperate measures that ancient people resorted to in their hope that the worst would come to pass.

When Jesus was told that his friend Lazarus was sick unto death, he remained unfazed.

Even when he got to know that Lazarus had eventually died, he still remained unmoved.

Although he was only two miles away, it took him two days to reach the place of death, at which time Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.

The reason Jesus remained unfazed over both Lazarus’ illness and subsequent death was that he knew that he had power over life and death.

He behaved this way because he realised that this presented him with an opportunity to demonstrate his powers to those that doubted that he was the Messiah.

He wanted to show his detractors in a practical way that it was he who had the final say.

In cases where the impending death is subject to intervention by fellow man, like in cases of judicial executions or extra-judicial killings, the targets were known to plead for their lives until they breathed their last.

It is not unusual for these piteous prayers to mellow even the most hardened of hearts leading to mercy being granted.

More often than not it is not unusual for those who have the privilege of exercising this prerogative of mercy to withhold their mercy until the eleventh hour so that their importance can be appreciated, even if it means just proving the point to themselves.

In early April 2015, Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, made a major policy announcement.

He announced the suspension of civil servants’ annual bonuses for the next two years.

Like all bearers of bad news, Chinamasa was all sorry, like a doctor who was trying to tell a patient that he/she has a terminal illness.

This, he explained, had been necessitated by the need to create fiscal space to fund the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset).

This was a decision that many an economists hailed as one of Chinamasa’s most commonsensical, as they saw it as a painful, but necessary measure, pointing that the fact that the bonuses for the previous year (2014) were still to be paid six months down the line was ample proof that the government could ill-afford to doll out the traditional 13th cheque, which has nothing whatsoever to do with productivity.

Civil servants were not amused. They were mad. And the emotive debate simmered for several days.

When President Robert Mugabe got to the podium to address Zimbabweans on Independence Day, he disowned Chinamasa and his no-bonus policy, claiming that this was news to him because as far as he was concerned, the Presidency and Cabinet had not approved of any decision that would arbitrarily take away a “right” of civil servants.

You never saw such jubilation among civil servants!

Sorry Chinamasa was at his best, apologising profusely for the fiasco, blaming himself for misleading the nation on such a sensitive matter.

“I acknowledge we have committed mistakes and overlooked the procedures, but these mistakes are understandable and have been made in good faith,” Chinamasa told the media.

“We were bound to make the mistakes given the budgetary pressures weighing heavily on the shoulders of Treasury. Primarily, the challenges we are facing in meeting the 2014 bonus commitments, the challenges to do with the payment of pensions and wages for our foreign missions,” he added.

Like Jesus in the case of Lazarus, President Mugabe tacticfully took his time to act, allowing many to lose hope before he stepped forth to prove that it was he who had the final say.

The same Chinamasa was at it again on September 8 this year when he announced in his mid-term fiscal policy statement that there would be no bonuses this year; the government was going to sack 25 000 workers; and that several diplomatic missions would be closed.

A few days later, government spokesperson, Christopher Mushohwe, who is the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services issued a scathing statement, dissociating the Government of Zimbabwe from Chinamasa’s policy pronouncements.

In March this year, a nasty row erupted between the same Chinamasa and his combative Youth, Indegenisation and Economic Empowerment counterpart, Patrick Zhuwao, over whether or not foreign-owned players in the banking sector had complied with the indigenisation and economic empowerment law by the March 31 deadline that the latter had set.

After Chinamasa had issued a statement to the effect that all foreign-owned banks operating in Zimbabwe — namely Barclays Bank, Stanbic, Standard Chartered Bank, Ecobank, BancABC, MBCA Bank, Old Mutual and CABS — had fully complied with the harsh regulations, Zhuwao went berserk, accusing the Finance Minister of shielding the banks.

After the harsh exchanges had spent themselves, that is when President Mugabe stepped in, issuing a statement “clarifying” the correct government position on indegenisation, sector by sector.

In the statement, President Mugabe pleasantly surprised even the most ferocious of his detractors by putting the country’s banking sector outside the reach of the country’s feared indegenisation laws by making it clear that the sector will “continue to be under the auspices of the Banking Act, which is regulated by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe”, while the insurance sector will continue to be under the auspices of Insurance and Pensions Commission Act — both acts which are administered by Chinamasa.

The watershed statement changed the whole complexion of the indegenisation law as it was known until then. President Mugabe’s last minute statement had the effect of changing the law.

These are not the only examples. Since last year, the Financial Gazette has been publishing reports by legal and labour experts highlighting that the proposed Special Economic Zones Bill, by virtue of its suspending labour laws that are enshrined in the Constitution, was unconstitutional.

The Bill was smuggled through the House of Assembly before being bulldozed through the Senate until it landed on President Mugabe for his John Hancock.

After sitting on it for several months, while workers fumed and stewed over their rights that were on the verge of being wiped off by the stroke of a pen, President Mugabe again surprised all when he refused to sign the law saying that it would lead to slavery.

It was at this stage that even members of the Parliamentary Legal Committee that had previously passionately defended the purported legality of the law to the Financial Gazette turned around to accept that the proposed law was indeed a crime on its own.

Then there was an outcry after Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri announced that government was planning to regulate quail bird farming. It had to take Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa — who also doubles up as Justice Minister — to squelch the public concerns when he issued a clearly-worded statement that no such thing was going to happen.

Even the unthinkable has happened right before our own eyes.

For many years now, the no-nonsense government of President Mugabe has been known for its hard-line stance towards compensation of any kind to the former white commercial farmers who fell victim to its oft-violent land reform programme.

President Mugabe is known for swearing by God himself that no such thing would ever happen, confirming this intransigent position by including the no-compensation clause in the country’s Constitution.

However, only recently, the same government started talking about the over US$30 billion-plus that might have to be raised to pay off the same former white commercial farmers.

Talk of keeping its citizens on the edge, President Mugabe’s government can take the crown.

In the past, government has made a number of policy announcements that have caused untold worry among the citizenry only for it to be thanked profusely after appearing magnanimous by withdrawing them.

In 2010, government announced that it was going to ban the importation of vehicles older than five years as well as ban from local roads all left-hand drive vehicles, claiming that these two factors were some of the major contributors to the increased road traffic accidents.

The deadlines were extended a number of times before the bans were eventually reversed, to the jubilation of many.

The owners of the country’s 60 000-plus kombis making brisk business on the country’s roads have also been on tenterhooks for over two years after the government announced that it plans to ban their minibuses in favour of large buses.

Still on the same caveat of decongesting the city centres, last week Local Government and National Housing Minister, Savour Kasukuwere, announced plans by the government to introduce urban tolling.

Since the end of May, the country has also been kept on the edge following the announcement by the central bank that is would be introducing bond notes that would act as a surrogate currency to ease crippling cash shortages.

Sceptical Zimbabweans, who still have sad memories of the untold loses they suffered when the value of the Zimbabwe dollar was wiped off by runaway inflation in 2008, are not convinced that the proposal is well-meaning and have been doing everything from street protests to mounting court challenges in an effect to stop the coming of the bond notes.

Announcements of delays in the arrival of the unwanted visitor have been welcomed with sighs of relief amid prayers that the “threat” is eventually called off.

Reports that the German firm that is expected to print the bond notes had refused to accept the contract have given hope to many who are opposed to them, and Chinamasa did his best to encourage these hopes by giving the impression that the bond notes are not yet a certainty.

Defending himself from a tight corner, in a court case challenging the legality of the bond notes early this month — just a few weeks before their scheduled release — Chinamasa appeared to be singing a tune from a hymn sheet of his own.

“The parameters within which the bond notes shall be introduced and implemented are still at conceptualisation stage and nothing is as yet, cast in stone in this regard,” he said in his opposing affidavit in papers filed with the High Court on October 6. He was responding to a lawsuit in which CAPS Holdings shareholder, Frederick Mutandah, had approached the High Court seeking the introduction of the bond notes to be declared unconstitutional. Chinamasa dismissed the bond notes as a mere “proposal”.

In other words, Chinamasa was saying that nothing was being done on the ground about the bond notes, more than six months after they were announced.

Although Chinamasa has previously proven to be unreliable, those who are in denial about the inevitability of the bond notes would wish he were right this time around.

But it is not Chinamasa who holds the keys.

Just as Christians can be heard animatedly singing: “Jehovah has the final say… Jehovah has the final say…!”, something similar can be said about Zimbabweans and President Mugabe.

With bated breath, they await that final say. Is the grand master waiting for the eleventh hour as usual to exercise his prerogative of mercy on the dreaded bond notes so that he can endear himself to Zimbabweans? Only time will tell. The Financial Gazette

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