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Scared of removing real zeros

By EM Hoza

ALL Zimbabweans are grappling with the meaning of “zero”. My little nephew will not carry his lunch box to school because he sees no need for packed lunch.

His meagre pocket money has suddenly become a windfall.

He reckons whereas he could buy one hot dog for $160 000, he now can buy 10 of them because the Reserve Bank has removed three zeros from the local “currency”.

I don’t know what will be more hurtful to him: the mathematical error or the deceit on which the error is based.

The Reserve Bank governor proclaims with vivid prose that this is the birth of a new era — the sunrise of currency reform — the advent of good news.

The official advert puts a lovely brown loaf of bread with the caption: “Was $85 000, Now ONLY $85!” No wonder both children and adults are drunk on this verbiage. Zero has become a big issue.

The newspapers sold out because of zero as Zimbabweans pondered upon its significance.

Lest we get carried away, two ways of defining “zero” will suffice:

lA quantity of no importance and a mathematical element that when added to another number yields the same number. Oh Zero!

We should not forget the versatile use of zero. It is a flexible quantity which achieves significance against the run of reason and common sense.

The biggest users of the significance of the insignificant zero are fraudsters and politicians — both two sides of the same coin!

Fraudsters add more zeros to stolen cheques while bankrupt politicians remove zeros from useless currencies.

The effect is the same: losses everywhere. Beyond bankrupt monetary “policies”, politicians add zeros to situations to inflate the effect.

Mussolini, the originator of government by propaganda, added many zeros to the Italian airforce and navy. Many an Italian were impressed. Zero is powerful. But we know who the real zeros are — and we are very afraid of removing them because they are certainly not three!

EM Hoza writes from Harare.

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