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Candid Comment

Hit song ‘Cash Crisis’ jingles on

By Joram Nyathi

USUALLY when I visit my rural home in Mberengwa, I leave Harare behind — sewage, water and fuel shortages, power outages and political acrimony. I don’t read

newspapers nor listen to the radio — there is no signal from ZBC. It was by pure chance that I heard of David Butau’s great escape from Botswana Radio.

This time round I couldn’t leave Harare completely. When I left for home on December 22 the hit song was Cash Crisis. It was topping the charts in rural Mberengwa throughout the “festive” season and was still the all-time bestseller when I returned a week later and still dominates the charts far ahead of Power & Water Shortage.

The 75km of dust road from Mberengwa offices to my homestead is never anything to look forward to under the best weather conditions. On this, our wettest December in 127 years, it was like plunging headlong into a pool of mud and rocks.

This is despite the fact that Zanu PF has crudely won all elections in the two Mberengwa constituencies since Independence. Crudely because there is never a transparent way of selecting councillors. In one particular instance villagers were told to gather at Keyara business centre to receive food.

Then the “people from Harare” asked them from aboard their Hardbody trucks if “anybody is against the councillor”. There being no show of hand, the incumbent was duly retained.

As far as parliamentary elections go, everybody knows the legend of Biggie Chitoro who roamed freely across the district armed with every crude instrument to deal instantly with dissenters in the country’s bloodiest election campaign of 2000.

So our generous MP (I shudder to mention his blessed name) tarred just 1km of the road ahead of the 2005 parliamentary elections. One kilometre!

I had to drive through more rocky mud for some 80km from Keyara to Mataga growth point, passing by the MP’s homestead. To his credit, he isn’t doing himself any special favours, except that he can cruise over the mud in a 4×4.

Between Ngungumbane and Buchwa on my way to Zvishavane I met a team of RBZ officials crawling through the mud and flooded craters on the road. They had a large police escort to protect the new bearer cheques which were due to be exchanged for the $200 000.

(At least somebody close to the money press now knows how diligently our Zanu PF MPs are working day and night using heavily subsidised vehicles and fuel to make our lives as comfortable as possible. After all isn’t that what democracy is about?)

So it was that Harare followed me into rural Mberengwa where a number of people said they knew nothing about the currency change. At Mataga growth point some businesses rejected the new notes we were carrying because they could be fake. Remember most parts have no ZBC signal and there are no newspapers. Worse still, schools being closed means pupils who normally get such information from their teachers didn’t have any.

The few who knew alleged RBZ officials last time, during Sunrise I, made a brief stop-over at the local shopping centre before driving away, leaving many villagers with stacks of “manure”. This time there was no money. Those who failed to exchange their $200 000 bearer cheques are smiling all the way to the beerhall while the “clever ones” scramble to re-access their money at banks.

At least that is how far the confusion over the new notes has spread across the country and set tongues wagging about whether Gideon Gono knows what he is doing. Which leaves him in something of a dilemma: to print or not to print more money?

Of course the official version of things is that there is already too much money in circulation. So where is it?

Gono says someone called Cash Baron has the money. This evil fellow changes form according to his plans. He can be a senior government or party official or he can be a businessman. But ordinary Zimbabweans have stopped worrying about this evil fellow’s identity. They would rather have their money. Is Gono in control?

Then there are those who see political capital in Gono’s dilemma. His problem, they proclaim loudly, is that he wants to be Mr Know It All. They don’t believe anybody else other than the criminals in government is hoarding cash. What they are hoarding themselves is legitimate because they are trying to beat inflation. Which sort of makes sense.

But then as soon as Gono prints more money they complain about the press overheating. “So long as he continues to print money, he can forget about taming inflation,” they warn sagely. Which sort of makes sense too.

So what is to be done? Everybody who is not in charge seems to know the solution, yet as a nation we don’t appear to have any. It makes me want to go back to my rural home.

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