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Letter from America with Ken Mufuka: The end of the Zee dollar is near, say I!

When I returned home from the US in 1982 to serve as the first black Regional Director of Museums at Great Zimbabwe, I was surprised at the different attitudes toward solving problems my brothers had from Americans.

When I reported the problem of tribesmen letting loose their cattle into the Great Zimbabwe monument compound and their threat to dislodging ancient stone walls, Reverend Jacob Mandebvu would say: “That is alright my child. We are aware of it. We talked about the matter with the Governor yesterday.” In the US, the issue is not whether the Governor was aware of the problem but whether he issued an edict to the tribesmen, and what punishments were available.

The fact that the elders were aware of the problem meant nothing to an American. It is about what action had been taken.

I foresaw, from the day, June 20, 2019 when the US dollar equivalent was suspended from circulation that there would be financial trouble. The issue then, and I remember clearly, was that no preparation had been made to make the US dollars available to the commercial actors if they so desired its use.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube had indeed confessed as much. Secondly, those who had saved their money, assuming US denominations, were surprised to find their money now denominated in the new Zee dollar. A captured Supreme Court concurred.

No arrangements had been made prior.

I need to belabor the point. It was assumed that the “elders are aware of the problem” and that that awareness was enough. Things will fall into their place eventually. God help us. On July 23, 2020, the price of bread was U$1, but to a use of the Zee dollar, 90 Zees were required.

In 2016 Dr. John Mangudya had introduced the Bond dollar. He promised that if the Bond note did not work, he would resign. Last week, the brother told Trevor Ncube (shame aside) that he was misunderstood.

Yes, we are aware of the problem an American would say: “Damn you, I too am aware of the problem, what are you doing about it?”

I maintain, as I have done before, princes have not changed. It is the realization by the [populace that the Zee dollar is a trumped-up fake money. “Ah,” now you will say, “Ken you over=reach yourself.”

The guardians are fleeing

Last week, Judge Loice Matanda Moyo issued a damning press report. Bankers and chefs are squirreling their money in foreign accounts. And by Jove, how do they do this?

They are, according to the learned and fearless judge, managing the parallel market. Quite simple my dear Dr. Watson.” Sayest Sherlock Holmes.

First the government does not believe in the veracity of their own Zee dollars. Zimra has been asking businesses to pay in US dollars. Secondly, Ncube, while swearing before God (these brothers take God’s name in vain) that Zimbabwe will support the Zee dollar for eternity, he has paid civil servants a Christmas bonus in US dollars. In Masvingo, the Post Office Bank can only give 7 customers real US dollars per day. Like the paraplegic at the Holy pool in Jerusalem, the infirm have taken to sleeping at the post office steps, lest an angel should peradventure open the door, and they are left out.

Ncube was hoping that no one would call his bluff and ask for real US dollars.

But there is more. George Guvamatanga, the permanent secretary at the Ministry has confessed that he has an offshore account. If the chefs have no confidence in their own money, who has? Don’t rush to condemn the judge. Here is a short list of these Philistine abracadabra activities.

An economy, advises the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, runs on confidence. Yes Siree. But the insiders must know more than we do. Nick Mangwana, the chief spokesperson, has kept his British citizenship and his family in situ (Museum talk for in place) in England.

Another learned brother has a permanent dwelling in South Africa and has been seen on a regular flight from Johannesburg every Monday morning. Another high-level brother has a dwelling in Dubai and has a frequent flier bonus arrangement with the Emirates. Yet another has his family in Switzerland and flies there frequently also.

But the big enchilada (Spanish for big biscuit) is that these brothers and sisters do not soil their hands with Zee dollars in their everyday activities. I am not the one to condemn them. When my time came to retire from an American university, I was asked if I wanted my retirement account to be transferred to Barclays Bank in Zimbabwe. Previously, I had lost U$4 million in PUPS (special savings at CABS).

I was prompted to write this letter by a Zimbabwean who has retired from the World Bank. He says that Ethiopia, with a population of 115 million does not have the mineral resources base Zimbabwe has. Its largest foreign exchange earner is Ethiopian Airways. Yet, with only 15 million people, and a resource base that would make King Midas green with envy, we are having problems with foreign exchange.

We return to the statement by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries. It is their belief, they told the president, that there is enough foreign exchange for everyone. WOW! That is what we call a heavy statement (Black English).

The problem has nothing to do with foreign exchange. The problem is about confidence. While it takes years to build a reputation, that same reputation can be destroyed by a few foolish actions. The British have a solution. It is called plausible deniability. When one policy fails, the actors are removed forthwith, and a new clean team is brought in.

Within a week of Tendai Biti taking charge of the treasury in 2007, Zimbabwe was awash with US dollars. What is happening in Zimbabwe is a repetition of the Latin American experience. It can become a permanent feature of life. When rulers have one leg in the country they govern and another (and family outside), the populace loses faith.

In Guatemala, they say 80 percent of all economic activity is below the radar. People keep US dollars a reserve currency for desperate occasions and whatever their needs are, appear desperate in the absence of the US dollar. As soon as the US dollar is mentioned; “Oh, I forgot, Uncle Velasquez used to fix Toyota Corollas. I will ask him.”

Confidence building needs a complete change of personnel. The US dollar has already replaced the Zee dollar even as we speak. My source says that 80 percent of all economic activities are now in US dollars. Whether you know it or not any money you have in Zee dollars is already useless even as we go to press.

But these are now below the radar.

(Ken Mufuka is a Zimbabwean patriot. He writes from the US. His latest book: Life and Times of Robert Mugabe: Dream Betrayed, is available at kenmufukabooks.com and at Innov Bookshops in Zimbabwe.)