Last Thursday, 9 July 2020, my young liberal team and I sampled a few of our country’s top economic analysts to zoom conference on Zimbabwe’s precarious currency conundrum. Likely though it seems, one cannot make objectively conclusive judgement premised on two hours’ debate. Even with my minuscule knowledge of North Korean, Burundi, Venezuela, Libyan, Syrian, Siberian or Cuban economies, participating Zimbabweans turned out to be citizens who overtly flaunt passionate, vindictively incorrigible hatred for their local currency.
We conjured a provocative conference topic, mischievously drawn from the “even God cannot sink the Titanic” analogy, which tragically ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean April 1912. Local money pundits insist the Rhodesian-turned-Zimbabwean dollar counted among the currency elites of Africa – only up to perhaps 1990. Economists Vince Musewe and Christopher Mugaga hardly concur on what would restore it to that altitude of former glory. It would be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportion if economists agreed on anything, anyway!
I follow Professor Steve Hanke’s writings who routinely argues for mothballing of central banks in favour of Monetary Policy Committees. Yet trade unionist Peter Mutasa insists the solution is government fulfilling its policy commitments of a new social contract towards an inclusive economy. Musewe, like most participants, contends Zimbabwe’s malady is a leadership, not currency crisis, arguing for a new generation of captains of reformative predisposition towards high export-led productivity. Only to restore local currency reserve value. However, Mugaga dismisses Musewe’s gold-backed currency proposition in preference of drastic reduction in money supply, supported by private sector-led growth.
The billion-dollar question for me is not so much about the value of the Zimbabwe dollar as it is about our hatred for it. I have spent 30 years of my adult life crisscrossing Africa for a liberal cause; and seen with my own eyes the value of Shilling, Kwacha, Naira, Metical, Birr and Rand tumbling; yet East Africans, Zambians, Nigerians, Mozambicans, Ethiopians and South Africans tenaciously cling to the ‘tattered life boats’ of their beloved currencies. In 2008, Reserve Bank Zimbabwe under the politicised governorship of Gideon Gono, unleashed billions of ‘funny money’ to pamper Robert Mugabe’s political gluttony. By the time finance ministers, Patrick Chinamasa and Tendai Biti officialised the US dollar in the GNU; Gono’s ‘agro bills’ were on a trillion percent hyperinflation trajectory – now his fate sealed in monetary Armageddon.
Today, iceberg-bound finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and his ‘lost at sea’ governor John Mangudya are now twin coxswains on Zimbabwe’s fateful epic currency journey. Worse still, my country’s economic lighthouse refracted in the distant haze of political misdemeanours. No wonder Ncube and Mangudya’s monetary policy antics attract nothing but collective national scorn.
My Zoom panellists concluded that without relentless local production, strong independent institutions, national confidence, respect for property rights and a drastic change in leadership mind-set, Zimbabwe’s hated Titanic ‘ZimDollar’ is headed one direction – to the bottom of the Fiscal and Monetary icy Ocean.
Source: Rejoice Ngwenya, COMALISO, Zimbabwe