By Levi Mhaka
IT is worrisome that Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono has continued to boast that the cash situation in Zimbabwe is under control. The “interview” he had
with the Herald (December 29) is a clear sign that he lives in another world.
Tafataona Mahoso, a prominent academic, media expert and executive chairman of the Media and Information Commission, has said “the so-called ‘cash-crunch’ which Zimbabwe has been experiencing since mid-November 2007 is so mystified and so over-simplified as to defy commonsense”.
Writing in his weekly column in the Sunday Mail (December 30), Mahoso said “the reasons for this mystification and its persistence are not difficult to explain”.
He referred to Gono as the head of the “corporate aristocracy” who dominates the speculative economy in Zimbabwe, as it is anywhere else in the world.
Mahoso aptly said the corporate aristocracy is “a tiny minority who do not have to be elected to hold a corporate office or enjoy their corporate power. The armies of managers and technocrats on whom (Gono depends) to impose and mystify their power also don’t have to stand for election and re-election.”
He wrote that Gono’s “explanations of what happened to the people’s money and the people’s economy in late 2007 do not have to make sense. (He) can afford to pass the blame on to someone else, especially someone who has to face the people and get elected.
“It is up to the people and their democratically elected government to make sense of what happened, why it happened at this time and what they must do about their economy and those they have entrusted with transforming and running it.
“Yet the so-called ‘cash crunch’ of November and December 2007 was the most deadly of all the economic hitches which Zimbabwe has faced since its latest war with imperialism started in the year 2000. Its timing meant that it was intended to ‘kill several birds with one stone’.”
Mahoso said there was absolutely no need to blame the “cash crunch” on cash barons and baronesses because the economic activities demanding liquidity at the time were so easily perceived and pretty obvious as to be foreseeable: the planting season, the Christmas season and the influx of Zimbabwean migrant workers coming home from the region and overseas, preparations for the 2008 elections, preparations for the Zanu PF extraordinary congress and increases in the number of tourists visiting Zimbabwe.
He further highlighted that “these factors were all in addition to the rising prices of goods and services themselves. Above all, the ‘cash crunch’ was meant to attack the morale of the ordinary citizen by making it impossible for families to hold their traditional reunions and exchanges of goods and visits which usually serve as a send-off for everyone going into the new year.”
Relating to the RBZ-induced cash shortage crisis to the Western-inspired regime change agenda, Mahoso identified the current inflationary spiral as a feature of well institutionalised and internalised instrument of economic warfare against the government of Zimbabwe.
He lamented about the media that glorifies managers and technocrats in the corporate and financial sector, publicising prizes and awards they receive or give one another, without scrutinising the actual performance of those given the awards or the motives and character of those organisations giving them. Therefore the media has accepted explanations of the economy from these technocrats which would normally not be accepted from anyone else.
Prominent among these award recipients is Gono, who recently received a European Marketing Research Centre (Africa) Award “for the role he is playing in instilling discipline in the financial sector and his efforts in turning around the country’s economy”.
He wondered why the RBZ would adopt a wait-and-see attitude during what Mahoso considered as a well-timed “cash crunch” in November-December 2007. To him this was totally unacceptable, if the press and the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe understood the relationship between security and liquidity.
Mahoso indicated that “money is not only the visible and visualised embodiment of the value of a people’s labour and assets; it is also an instrument of control. In a capitalist economy the power to determine liquidity is more important than the army and the police combined. The MIC chief said that “because liquidity (contains) the means by which to manipulate and move the factors of productive power in a capitalist society, a cash shortage of the magnitude Zimbabwe was subjected to in late 2007 is far worse then any industrial stay-away or ‘final push’ ever organised by the ‘regime change’ forces in this country since 1997. In the former stay-aways, patriotic citizens could choose not to participate. In a cash shortage, everyone is forced to stay away from what they normally do in order to line up and wait for the little cash.”
He easily explained the triggers for the cash shortage: the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe cut its cash allocations to commercial banks by 50% at the very same time that demand for cash was escalating and the providers of goods and services were hiking prices, against government policy but with encouragement from the RBZ since it has been against price controls and is the major driver of the foreign currency parallel market. The RBZ pays the highest exchange rate for forex for its quasi-fiscal activities.
The idea that the RBZ knew exactly who the cash barons were who were violating the laws of this country and committing treason by sabotaging the economy was also puzzling. This was because when pressed to reveal the cash barons, Gono said he would reveal them only to the relevant parliamentary portfolio committee.
But that committee is not a prosecuting authority. Why should the alleged names be released only to them?
In his last monetary policy review statement, on October 1, before the “cash crunch”, the RBZ governor had criticised Zimbabweans for their negative attitude towards the very same people he now denounces as cash barons.
He said Zimbabweans should learn to accept what he called “rich people”. But how exactly do these rich people differ from those the RBZ sought to protect from the price blitz and those “cash barons” the RBZ now blames for the cash crunch?
For openly exposing Gono’s dereliction of duty, one hopes and trusts that Mahoso does not become a target of vilification and victimisation. This has happened to former Finance minister Herbert Murerwa; Simon Pazvakavambwa; suspended Attorney-General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele; David Butau, chairman of the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Parliamentary Committee and Zanu PF Guruve North MP, after he snubbed Gono who had made a theatrical public request to appear before the committee.
By now, Gono would have simply resigned. Need anyone say more?
* Levi Mhaka is a Harare-based writer.