The Australian : World November 5th, 2018
“Countries don't go bankrupt” he laughed dismissively. The interviewer bravely assured him they most certainly do. His argument was persuasive – to all except Comrade Mugabe. Trillions of dollar notes were printed to prove his point.
The lesson was not learned in 2008. Under a new President, the lesson has not been learned in 2018.
Last week the newly appointed Minister of Finance Mthuli Ncube, recently chief economist and vice president of the African Development Bank (AIDB) announced that cognisant of the scale and urgency of the challenges ahead “our plan is bold and far reaching and will have the desired effect.”
Sadly, the plan has been bold and far reaching enough to have devastating consequences. Within even a marginally healthy economy, it might have had a chance – in Zimbabwe, it has simply tipped it over the edge.
Within a couple of days it was confirmed that Treasury Stocks had risen by billions of dollars.
Lawyer Alex Magaisa in his regular Big Saturday Read stated that “the total public debt is USD16.9 billion, with USD$7.4 billion in foreign debt and USD$9.5 owed to local creditors.”
The issuing of those Treasury Bills – irresponsible and excessive enough to mean that interest payments can no longer be met, has caused most of domestic debt – a borrowing by Government of USD9.5 billion in the last 6 years. A mere mention was made to say that the limit on the government overdraft at the Reserve Bank was three times the amount permitted.
The bottom line is that Zimbabwe has no foreign currency. Rumours are rife of men in suits and dark glasses, who sweep bank queues aside to get to the front and take out every last US Dollar or South African Rand in locked boxes.
It was agreed, but never said that a population demographic of over 90% unemployed reflects the desperation of the people to merely survive - somehow. Into that void comes Eco-cash. This means everyone has to have a smart phone with ‘a line’ in order to trade at all. In this way with a pattern of numbers of asterisks or hash characters, a formalised barter exists – ostensibly with legitimate ties to the USD or Rand – in reality with no relationship whatsoever.
However it has allowed that informal sector to make enough to live – just. Eco-cash and the huge returns sent back to families from the millions who have left the country have made life possible – just. It has also created an enormous burden on those trying to make their way in their new countries.
The government could not get its hands on Ecocash effectively enough. First of all extensive vendor markets in the major cities were ruthlessly destroyed – ostensibly to prevent the spread of cholera – more likely to bring this ‘illegal trade’ to its knees.
It didn’t work.
So government tax rose from 3 cents per Ecocash transaction to 2 cents per dollar of each transaction – estimated at a rise of 3900%. Almost instantly the Eco-cash dollar devalued from 1.5 Eco-cash dollar to the US Dollar to 3 to 1. Nobody knows who sets that rate. Everybody knows it has no bearing whatsoever to reality.
At the same time, it was announced that punitive taxes would be applied to all monies being remitted to families and friends by relatives internationally and that if it was not paid, those relatives would no longer be eligible for Zimbabwe visas.
The pressure is rising and two days ago a man sporting ruling party insignia was chased down the road by angry vendors. As they caught up with him, he shot one dead.
There is no fuel. Flour has been rationed with the dictum that it is only to be used by bakers to make bread, not biscuits or cakes. Pharmacies closed early this week unable to provide life-sustaining drugs and as the week draws to a close, supermarkets shut their doors on empty shelves unsure when they will be able to open again.
The prevailing anguish on social media is “have we the strength to go through this again?”
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions (ZCTU) was fronting a massive demonstration due to take place nationwide today. Last night almost 100 leaders were arrested and detained ‘overnight’. At the same time, those brave souls who attempt to change money in such tourist traps as the Victoria Falls, were all arrested and broken up by ‘security’
Today – the Victoria Falls despite being the only point in the country with a regular inflow of foreign exchange, is all but in lock-down. No petrol to run tourists to the airport and certainly no petrol for game drives.
Tomorrow – is anyone’s guess.
The speed at which shelves have emptied, fuel is no more and medications are unobtainable, has shocked everyone.
When it happened in 2008, everyone had the odd US dollar or a few Rand to meet emergencies – this time they have nothing.
Historical novels and biographies bring to life the Rhodesia and Zimbabwe we know and love. From the Matebele Kings Mzilikazi and Lobengula, through courage, adventure and heartbreak, from explorers and missionaries, to gold diggers and hunters, through Imperialism, Colonialism and Nationalism. All of them, paint a myriad miniatures to shape the character and essence of our nation.
And what a nation! What reprobates, what heroes, what distortions and what truths lurk among these stories. I understood from writing my father's biography, Beloved African, that there was an awful lot more to find out. Then I realised that my young childhood and those of my three friends, held some interesting keys.
Developing historical fact, through using the lives of these four, now fictional characters as the foundation, has allowed them to question everything from the Matebele Kings to colonial settlement to U.D.I. - the Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain.
They do so with the benefit of some hindsight as THE HORNS, the first book of the Zambezi Trilogy, takes place from their childhood in the early 1940's to leaving school and finally, moving into young adulthood. In so doing, they are confronted by how disparate their lives and thinking have become - until book one ends abruptly in 1966.
Abruptly enough I hope, to keep you in suspense for the next one!
Mostly, he remembered the stories. How he loved and learned those stories, specially those stories of the great Zulu King Shaka.
His eyes were fixed on the lightening of the day as his imagination pictured the oil-shined bodies of warriors, sweating with the excitement of preparation for battle. The King needed more cattle, and he had thrown the spear at the Inxwala so that warriors could blood their spears against a troublesome tribe. He imagined the brave shouts of the amabutho as they told each other “never fear pain”; “die with courage”; “the enemy will fall as water to our feet”.
He imagined the battle itself – the silence of the ‘creeping’ as the amabutho moved imperceptibly closer to the enemy in the blackness of night, their backs to the mark where the scouts told that the sun would rise. They would creep and stop . . . and creep and stop . . . but not too close – never too close.
The first creeping was the new maShoja – once they were enemy who were hated, then they became slaves. When they were loyal and proved they were brave enough, they became maShoja or aMatcha amaZulu– fighters of the Zulu people.
While the enemy slept, it was time for the second creeping – this time, the trusted warriors, the impi. Even in the dark, their oiled bodies gleamed against the featureless bush.
Then the ‘kneeling’ – with no sound – no moving until the sky behind them washed with early morning red. As they knelt, the strong runners circled, up and round behind the enemy to form ‘iphondo zinkomo– the horns of the bull – running on noiseless feet.
Then – the silence.
Last of all, the backward legs. The a’madoda impi – lookingback and to the sides, keeping eyes wide for enemy attacking from behind. The umfanas were hidden with them, ready to take long shields and iklwa to the warriors when they needed them.
As the red streaked across the sky just before the sun leapt up bright behind them, he imagined the slow half-standing of the first creeping, with shields turned sideways. Still silence – silence for as long as a big pot took to boil on a wood fire.
Then – the Zhii. Tchzhee . . . zhee. The hissing.
Jabu’s body ached and thrilled to the fear of the zhii. The enemy, hearing and understanding, running, running all over like frightened ants when their nest is disturbed by a big foot. They would hear shouts of “AmaZulu! AmaZulu!”
The awful, inescapable zhii until the horns were in place. The frightened ants – running this way – then that way. Looking. Running again. The zhii, the zhii– louder and louder.
Then – the King shouts.
The first creeping, crack their shields flat in front of them with a loud noise – their iklwa in the other hand – moving slow, steady, strong. Now bending so the enemy can see the second creeping behind as they stand up tall and roar and leap and gyrate and scream, their ostrich feathers making them giants in the early morning.
Jabu’s imagination was filled with the sights and sounds of the battle. The ants flee – into impi horns on the one side . . . then on the other side. The spears grow red. Above the screams and roars, he hears the squelch of iklwa as the warriors pull them from the weak and the dying.
Jabu’s head sank between his knees – he felt exhausted by the intensity of the imagined battle. After a few moments, and as the images faded from his mind, he remembered the Zulu rules.
Strong fighters were tied together, and a chosen clan herded to the Zulu place for punishment. All young children were killed. Women were chosen for strength and beauty – those still suckling were allowed to take their babies with them. Old men and women went too – it was tradition – to bring blessing to them for wisdom and kindness
Inxwala: the Great Dance and the first fruits ceremony
amabutho: Matebele warriors
maShoja or aMatcha: warrior, fighter (single)
impi: once meaning a group of armed men; Shaka changed this to mean a regiment
a’madoda: the old men
iklwa: the short stabbing spear of the Zulus, the name derives from the sound made as the spear was pulled from a body
Zhii: The closed teeth hissing of the regiments before an attack.
A day in the life of Edmund Garwe
Identifying some of the students at Goromonzi School for Beloved African new editions
‘You white people are much, much too soft,’ one of the old headmen said. ‘Only yesterday a cheeky boy in my village was boasting how he had been able to make maningi (lots of) trouble at the school.
The pressure was on when I was able to meet up with one of those three in Botswana in 2010. That meeting covered every possible topic - we spoke from the heart, confronted issues difficult to us both, affected as we had been, by a war which saw us on opposite sides. I found a remarkable man who spoke with generosity and gentleness, and with such acute observations ...