HomeAnalysisAMHVoices: Open letter to RBZ governor

AMHVoices: Open letter to RBZ governor

Dear Dr Mangudya,

From your privileged position, you probably do not have a clue how difficult things have become for the majority of us ordinary Zimbabweans. So, I will break with convention and dive straight into it. There may be time in future, inshallah, for pleasantries.

In February 2009, the government of Zimbabwe adopted a multi-currency financial system. That act resulted in several dire consequences. In one fell swoop, all our life savings were wiped out. Our bank accounts were reduced to zero. Personally, my two insurance policies, which were both a few months short of being paid up, were worth nothing.

As a young professional, I had hoped to put them down as additional security for a mortgage bond to buy a house in a decent neighbourhood. It never happened and dreams shattered, I continued as a tenant!

At that time, we were told that the Zimbabwean dollar was still very much legal tender. It had only been suspended for the time being. The US dollar became the main means or currency of exchange. Since the Zimbabwean dollar was still legal tender, we all had to open up foreign currency accounts (FCAs) with our banks.

From a zero position, we started working again to re-establish our savings and, as a consequence, our collective dignity. Our salaries were paid in US dollars. Prices for goods and services were marked in US dollars. At the checkout point in most shops, the rate for that day could be easily established if one tendered British pounds, Botswana pula, the South African rand or the European euro.

Since that dollarisation day in February 2009, all the services that I rendered have always been paid for in US dollar. Since that day, I have always understood that my bank account was denominated in US dollars. It has always been my understanding that all deposits into my bank account were US dollar deposits. To me it did not matter that the deposit was by way of a mobile banking money transfer, a Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) transfer or cash.

If I remember well, you encouraged us to embrace so-called plastic money and payments through the mobile cellular telephone in order to reduce the stress on the physical US dollars, which, at some point, had somehow become scarce. I actually thought that I was being patriotic to follow your advice.

Then in 2016, you introduced what you referred to as “bond coins”. You later followed it up with the “bond note”. You told us that being a “surrogate” currency of the US dollar, the bond note was at par with its foster. Like sheep being led to the slaughter, we foolishly believed you.

Even up to now, from your monetary policy statement on Monday, you seem to insist that this bond note surrogate currency is at par with the US dollar. You must have such a low opinion of us to think that we buy that.

Before the general elections that were held in July this year, we had kept our fingers crossed hoping that after the polls you would come up with a workable plan to take us out of the — to borrow from US President Donald Trump’s dictionary of expletives — “shithole” that we have been in for the past two decades.

As you read your monetary policy statement on Monday, we all held our collective breath, waiting for the smoking gun — that spark — that moment when the big idea that will save us is finally revealed. The Americans call it the “aha” moment. It never came.

I am not an economist. I thought that the big idea might be hidden in some of your technical lingo. So, over the past two days, I have read your statement over and over again, thinking that I might have missed something from your televised announcement. The more I read your statement, the more I get convinced that the majority of us ordinary Zimbabweans are “screwed”, to borrow another Trump favourite.

Some of my friends who, like I see you do, from your rather misleading economic statistics, remain plainly foolishly optimistic. They cannot believe me when I tell them that, once again, we are done for, exactly as we were on that morning in February 2009. Our efforts at rebuilding our savings since you wiped them out have been futile!

Please, sir, explain to them that you have decreed that our banking accounts, that we have always thought are foreign currency accounts (FCAs), are no longer FCAs. All the deposits made into our accounts since you encouraged us to embrace plastic money, that we have always thought were US dollars are no longer US dollars. They have somehow mutated into something that I am still struggling to figure out from your underwhelming statement. I see you gloss over this. I am sure that you too have no clue as to what appellation to give them.

I see that you try to pull wool over our eyes by referring to RTGS transfers as if an RTGS transfer is a banking account. It would help us all if you told us in what currency those existing accounts are now denominated.
Perhaps you have decided to turn them into Zimbabwean dollar accounts, but you are not brave enough to get eyeball-to-eyeball with us and tell us — huh? Are they now bond notes, RTGS, Zim dollar accounts, or something else? What are they now? Please let us know.

As a result, as you did in February 2009, you now want all of us to, once again, open real FCAs into which we should deposit real US dollars and not your surrogate currency bond notes or electronic balances.

Please, let my friends know that all this is because government raided and depleted nostro accounts, thereby making foreign payments impossible. Because it is now impossible to process foreign payments from our existing FCAs, you are now telling us that the money that is in our accounts is not in fact foreign currency and that the accounts are not FCAs. But, you stop short of telling us in what currency those balances are now denominated. When did they all change and to what?

You announce pontifically that your measures will encourage people to bank their money. Christ, if this is meant to be a joke, it is in bad taste and insensitive!

Godfrey Mupanga,Mupanga Bhatasara Attorneys.

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