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It's the Zimdollar, stupid!

11 Feb 2017 at 20:52hrs | Views

Gentle reader, I think it is a sheer waste of national time to focus on the collapse of ZimPF, spectacular though that may be. There was nothing unexpected about ZimPF's dramatic finale, especially for you who have been reading this column. I gave enough hints.

More important, the refrain of this column has always been to warn Zimbabweans that Joice Mujuru was, and could never have been a decisive factor in national politics, both before and after Independence. Her small significance lay in being a human illustration of the rearing capacity of the ruling Party, and the sheer tolerant generosity of President Mugabe. Nothing more, nothing less.

Man, know thy history
Equally, those she teamed up with to form ZimPF are well known small political timers, little men and women whose history subsisted in being invited as minor characters at crucial moments in the big drama of this country. The only trouble is that we are a society that is sorely divorced from its history. We don't know our past, don't know its personages, which is why we tend to panegyrise men and women on the margins of history and historical moments, while traducing Hamlets without whose presence the national play would never have proceeded.

Poor Rugare Gumbo! Yet another coup on so small a matter, so small a cause! What would have gotten me to shudder was the prospect of a Joice Mujuru chance leadership of this country, simply by dint of hierarchical placement. But like I always tell people, chine vene vacho chinhu ichi!

Nyamutamba nemombe wabaiwa
However scientific we become, however developed, we should always remember there is that inscrutable realm that governs the affairs of this land. It is the land of Chaminuka, Nehanda, Kaguvi and other mediums. You may want to deny it in the name of sophistication or of the new faith, but the metaphysical factor which bears down on this land cannot be wished away. Beyond the material, we are one land moved by great spirits, a land with invisible guardians who lead up to the Creator. We have our guardians, our God and real Christianity will not break this great chain of spiritual being.

Which is why neither pretences nor sophistry will change our pre-destined direction. Check all around you and just see how dummies are falling, one by one, one after another, so spectacularly. Until we get to election days, there will be more drama — bigger, riveting spectacles — as more charlatans tumble, leaving the real leader — the anointed one — standing! And again we shall all sing: Ahooo oha oha/Nyamutamba nemombe wabayiwa! The great bull-fighter has been gored.

God's smile in the land
Things are looking good, very good and again quite soon we shall be singing ooh lala! Mighty God has repaid us a thousand times over and the land wears a green, verdurous smile. Zimbabwe is abuzz with life, as was attested to me by some BBC anchorperson who was in the country on some shooting project that wound up a few days ago. In typical Etonian English, she sang to the beauty of this land, praised "the good English" of its citizens! Kikiki, King Lobengula would have exclaimed: "the Inglish, the Inglish!" See what they have eternally wrought in minds of their former colonial subjects! Frankly I did not know whether to feel good or slighted by such an observation. But there it was, proof of a long colonialism!

The Zambuko year
I said the land is gay, bright and lively. We are set for a bumper harvest, all-round. My good journalist-friend - now a consummate farmer - renames 2016/17 season "Zambuko" - the Crossover Year. And that it is, however you want to look at it.

The rains have been generous, thanks to the Almighty in whose infinite goodness and Justice all life abides. He tested us; today he rewards our hard-to-collapse, proven national will and spirit. Today his ledger shows a balance: the drought of the past now met with the dampness of the present. All happening a season before the country decides! Well, not quite decides: all happening a season before the country retains, re-confirms! Is the die not cast already?

The task on hand
But all this is no reason for us to sit on our laurels. We never do; never should, we a wayfaring people. Throughout our long journey from Guruuswa, the land of tall grass, it has been a struggle. That struggle continues! There is so much to do, fortunately so many to do it. The inputs have been successfully mobilised, and anyone who does not do well this season has little reason to remain on the land. The dams are full, which means an extension of the Command Agriculture Project into Winter Cropping - a broadening of the Programme's crop repertoire - should see us hauling in a good wheat crop. Still, no stopping. In fact I run a little ahead.

The current crop must be harvested well, and in time. The acreage under maize is large - too large for household labour. We need to mobilise combine harvesters so the large crop is carefully harvested. On time, too. The silos, another headache. Most of them largely derelict from many lean years, in a state of utter disrepair.

These have to be fixed well ahead of the huge harvest. Grain processing companies need about 800 000 tones, which they are ready to pay for upfront; we project between another 800 000 to a million by way of surplus, and of which needs to be well stored, or for which markets have to be found, possibly in East Africa where the rains have not been so good. Of course the crop must be financed. But judging by the response towards the wheat crop, it is clear more players are coming on board.

A culture of hard work
After wheat, we need to prepare for the next season whose fortunes remain unknown, uncertain. That means more investments in irrigation systems, now that water bodies are full, and Tokwe-Mukosi is finished, virtually. More power units are coming on stream. Irrigation is the lasting answer to climate change.

The country is dammed, the most dammed part of this southern tip of our Earth. Let us not be damned. But far more important than a good harvest is cultivating into the national character a personality of persistent diligence. Of hard work. Not this horrible trait of loafing, chafing and complaining which nose-long politicians of the tajamuka ilk were beginning to engraft onto the national personality. It was horrible, baneful!

Basket profiling
Much more, this should be the year - the season - we put behind us the horrible tag of "basket case": Zimbabwe, once the bread-basket of Southern Africa, now turned into a basket case! So went the terrible pot-boiler that fastened on us like a tick well and securely embedded in thick bodily fur, one that would not go away, one harder to shake free.

It was a terrible moniker for this Land of tall spirits, taller fighters. Never again should that pot-boiler stalk us, merely because we cannot look after our stomachs. It was shameful, but worse, a dignified cover for a racial slur. From 2000, we embarked on a dramatic Land Reform Programme that recovered land from white farmers, largely of British stock.

The western world wasn't too pleased, in fact was infuriated that a black people had dared taken away from, and reversed gains of, colonial white conquest and gain. An abomination in international relations. That abomination and rupture took place here, to great anger in the white world. Something had to be done, and done urgently lest more natives would grow snotty and challenge the colonially-ordained global geo-economic and political setup.

A revolution that had to be stopped
Invasion scenarios were drawn up. And abandoned. Regime change plans were implemented. And foiled. But the anger remained, as did, too, the urge to demolish, to reverse this terrible happening. Beaten but still hopeful, imperialism settled on massaging internal conditions in the hope of building internal pressures for reactionary change, so it would appear like a local social revolution. This is an abiding strategy of neo-colonialism: imperial interests are managed in such a way to look and appear like local processes.

The myth of Arab spring, when in fact there was nothing Arab about it, no spring in the desert! Hoow! The idea is to localize in order to confer local causation, to confer legitimacy, to hoodwink the local eye into believing the anger is endogenous. Our sapped belly, underfed stomach, provided the most promising soft under-belly for disguising this patently external imperial assault. Did not Fanon predict that a people pushed to desperation ends up acting against its core interest? Imperialism knows that an unfed stomach honours no principle, indeed has no time for ideals. The revolution, the republic, was in danger, which is why it is no coincidence that this country has always seen most intense meddlesome political dissent in those years of drought and hunger. In those years we wait for the rains. Check that out, gentle reader.

Lesson from Ghana
"It has been said that the fabrication of the "big lie" is essential in the planning of any usurpation of political power," so wrote Kwame Nkrumah as he reminisced on the heady Conakry days, soon after his ouster. For his Ghana, the "big lie" told the world was that Ghana needed to be rescued from 'economic chaos'. Interestingly, the so-called economic chaos had been engineered by the same forces who told the lie: the British and the Americans who ousted him. And this is not a matter of conjecture: just read CIA declassifieds, and you get to know what propaganda brief the US mission had on Nkrumah's Ghana. And what the CIA did to oust him.

More important, the years that followed Nkrumah's demise were hardly years of plenty. The Ghanaians continued to wallow in poverty. Yet the remedy that cured the so-called Nkrumah malady — economic chaos — was neither summoned nor administered by the same forces against unsuccessful successor governments who betrayed, who never served the Ghanaian people. No, this was legitimate poverty, democratic poverty! An international conspiracy and coup against Nkrumah, local putsches for the rest; imperialism had securely ensconced itself in the driving seat, leaving the apoplectic native to bicker, to tussle, to fight, but without seeing the real enemy.

Even Ayi Kwai Armah — that famed Ghanaian writer who still lives, spoke of the 'beautyful ones' as not yet born. But how could they be born in circumstances of neo-colonial ugliness. There is a way in which what is local in Africa is often foreign. Caveat emptor!

Black poverty, white salvation
In our case, the lie had very strong, seemingly demonstrable and plausible props. Like all good lies of course! The country was facing a net cereal deficit; most reclaimed lands stood fallow, untilled; the Agro-leaning economy was on a tailspin. Much worse, this compounded crisis seemed to neatly coincide with the fall and departure of colonial whites in the agro-economy! America had not slapped us with sanctions, only with an Act for democracy and economic recovery! Beautiful America!

Very portent considerations for making the lie believable, more so on stretched, buffeted and impressionistic minds of the unemployed, themselves the raging, roaring force and raw material for the regime-change agenda! The disengagement of Bretton Woods institutions, coupled with the drying up of aid and loans from the West, simply sealed the grim picture. I said all this was a way to dignify a racial slur. Stripped of all pretences, the simple argument which was being put forward was that the black Zimbabwean — a local variant of the archetypal colonial noble savage — needed to be saved and served by a white farmer, a white employer and a privileged and pampered white investor, the same way he needed to be saved and ministered to by a white missionary, to be cured by a white doctor, and to be beneficently conquered and governed by a white native commissioner at the close of the 19th century. The hunger that stalked this land, the unemployment, the buffeted economy: all these were black ills, black being the colour of curse and failure. We have been framed as a failure, congenital national failure.

Bring back whites!
And as with Ghana, this plausible lie found emphatic echo in local mediated scholarship: the local press repeated and amplified on it; local scholars adopted and elaborated it; local preachers versified and parabolised it. Above all, local politicians built a formidable movement of dissent from and around it, even giving it indigenous names for local trope and colour. What really collapsed one's self-esteem was the crushing believability of the lie. Even those closest to you, even those with you, began to echo the lie in ways that wrought despair. Often reminding you, nay excoriating you: why don't we bring back the ousted whites? You despaired, felt drained. Yet Sartre, himself a French had long observed: there is no good colonialist, no good colonialism. But who listened to that heresy, who? A defeated people are predisposed to despondency, to self-flagellation.

New modes of killing natives
Meanwhile many good things were taking place, quietly, minutely, invisibly even, to countermand this overbearing lie. Slowly; surely. Determined as ever, Zimbabweans on the land were painfully investing, slowly but surely building capacity and core competences for an eventual take-off so sorely long in coming. A lame tractor here; a broken plough there; some cow, some goat, some sheep; an acre or so of irrigable land; a broken pipe mended and restored here and there, but all going towards a build-up which one day would see us slough off the despicable profile of a people who carried the curse of Ham, a people who needed to be rescued by some white do-gooder.

All told, the propaganda assault was searing, heartless, crippling even. " . . . the natives," says Jean-Paul Sartre, "are killed less frequently but they are scorned collectively, which is the civilized form of massacre; the aristocratic pleasure of counting the differences is savoured. 'I cut my hair, he plaits his; I use a fork, he uses chopsticks; I write with a goose quill, he draws characters with a paintbrush; I have ideas which are straight, and his are bent: you have noticed that he is horrified by movement in a straight line, that he is only happy if everything goes sideways?'" Sartre termed it "the game of anomalies" by which the humanity, the genius and the deservedness of the native is not only denied, but is also repudiated to make the intervention of a white man burdened with high ideals and compassion for the savage necessary. The French, Sartre's people, put it well: the colonised Algerians were happy under "the French bayonet"! To which a reawakened native Algerian retorted: "even if we were happy under French bayonets, we would fight"! Read your Godfrey Huggins here, lately your Ian Smith and then you realize the narrative of the-happy-native-under-white-tutelage knows no full stop.

The one stubborn old man we have
But give it to the old man. Where own faith collapsed in most of us, R.G. kept buoyant and focused. Where many of us fell for false models hawked to us by the same people who routinely traduced us, who hurled racial slurs on us, he kept his faith in his people, faith in what the land could do for them. A good many of us even smuggled back white farmers – itself the worst form of self-defeat, Mugabe denounced all such, always large-heartedly singing the verse of self-belief to the un-believing, the battered.

Much worse, where our most educated economists froth-fully exhorted us to re-engage the West and the captured IFIs, he preached the none-but-ourselves mantra. People and their land first, he said repeatedly, to an audience long inured to arguments of white capital, long drained of self-belief, always savouring the will-of-the-wisp white saviour who never comes. Today he stands all, vindicated: a leader who stands firm and solid on his land, a seer who sees far, very far, who stands by his people and race on its forte: the land and its bounty. Kwete zvitototo izvi zvadai kusvika pamharadzano.

The story of the Rand
Yet the confusion still abounds, ironically more trenchantly in those who must show the way. Reading views coming from our business experts, one is left in utter perplexity. One is left wondering just what is wrong with us, against the gift of such visionary leadership. Take the gathering call for us to adopt the South African Rand. Can someone please help me understand where this is coming from; what this is all about? In the first place the Rand is already in the basket of currencies we adopted in 2009 when we moved away from the Zimbabwe Dollar. It has been with us, indeed is part of the currencies authorized for any transaction in this economy.

That its use has not been as widespread as those strange business leaders would have wished, is a matter for those business people – not Government – to explain. Even in Bulawayo where the Rand had held sway – thanks to emotive reasons – this is no longer so nowadays. The dollar rules everywhere, rules this land. Yet South Africa remains our biggest trading partner, our biggest source of capital goods. The employer of a sizable part of our people in the diaspora. Not so the United States of America. The United States of America whose position as a trading partner comes a distant-something; whose political attitude towards us comes nothing short of the vile, on the ground provides a currency which those same businessmen most prefer both for transactions and for storing value. The paradox looms large: they can't earn it; yet they most yearn for it! They can't win it yet they must have it!

Spouting dons from Oxford
It does not help me to mouth those learned arguments on the role and value of the US Dollar in international trade and savings. I also read that in college, arguable with a better grasp than most who dare repeat it to me. Marx put it so well: philosophers have described the world; the issue is to change it! There is just too many loud-mouthed bookish economists around us. I am tired of their narratives which have taken us on a journey to nowhere. Who have given us so many prescriptions that have not brought even a farthing into the till.

Or a cob into the granary. I prefer a quiet, hardworking, earthy farmer to a gaudy don from Oxford spouting esoteric theories of value. The one turns the hard soil for a cob; the other bakes stale illusions for a pot that never stops boiling. Why give us an argument predicated on a currency whose owners are not even half as happy with it as you make them out to be? A currency which is there for your taking and use already? Many businessmen in this country know that the monetary authorities approached their South African equivalents at the height of our currency problems.

They are privy to the response Zimbabwe got. Yet they remain wedded to a dead argument. Kuti zvidii? And in all their evasive calculus, they don't talk about the low productivity in industries they are supposed to run, preferring to draw red currency herrings? If it is not poor governance which is debilitating the economy, it is failure to engage IFIs which is enervating the economy. Or policy inconsistencies. And where policies are straightened, land issues sorted out, IFIs engaged, it must be ease-of-doing business! That, too, gets attended to and, no, it is the overvalued US dollar which must be internally devalued! Then the argument shifts to crippling imports which are dampening local manufacture. That, too, get sorted out through SI64, at great political risk. No, it is something else: give us the Rand! But you have it in the basket? Can someone show me the chamber from which all such seedy excuses are manufactured so I can drone-bomb it! It is terrible. We can't be a leadership of excuses, a leadership ever evolving excuses. After eating such big book, speaking in such good Inglish? No!

The bane of business correctness
But also business leaders who lack the courage to proffer truthful counsel merely because truth is not in fashion. Or looks too formidable to be uttered. The mantra has been political correctness. Our real problem is business correctness: the fear of contradicting received knowledge, convention. Orthodoxy. We saw it in relation to bond notes. No single business leader wanted to speak in favour of them, even though they had no US dollar with which to pay their workforce.

Even though they were not earning the very US dollars they were exhorting Government to retain, multiply through some magic wand. I mean is Government a trading outfit? You can't argue the best governed nations are nations which are least governed, while also saying a least governing outfit must be the most accountable in terms of market failures or truancies. Must produce the most dollars you can't earn! Voodoo? It just does not make sense. Why is the same government which is daily exhorted to "merely enable" suddenly morphing into the same structure which is exhorted to "exclusively provide" the US dollar when short? From where? From the political market? Clearly we are getting to a point where Government is perfectly justified to lose faith in business, to simply disregard counsel from it. After all, the formulae for the successful Command Agriculture has not come from Organized Business, much as the latter stands to benefit the most from its outcome. It has been those players outside mainstream business, outside the Chambers – the maverick players by local conventional business wisdom – who have saved the day, while our eminent businessmen and bankers are fixated on the question of "bankable 99-year leases". Soko risina musoro, as the late revolutionary icon, Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo would have said!

Munhumutapa's hoe
Simply, with the introduction of the Bond Note, the question of currency in national economic recovery has become clearer, easier to conceptualize and thus resolve. Command Agriculture, both from the angle of financing the crop, and from the angle of restoring agriculturally viable economic activity is the bridge – zambuko – to economic recovery. We have broken the ratchet effect which had seen us on a uni-directional downward hurtle. Henceforth we shall feed our stomachs, which means spending less currency on food which cannot be postponed. Which means grain exports. Which means raw materials for industry.

Greater savings. We don't need unhelpful noises by way of hair-brained advice. It has been the simple hoe of Munhumutapa, not Adam Smith's look-alikes here. We need cool heads, experienced, earthy counsellors. Real nationalists who exhibit faith in our own efforts, our own land, own resources. The issue is clear: we must work hard, harder; we must produce hard, harder; export hard, harder, so we rebuild our reserves, rebuild maZimbabwe. But for all that to happen sustainably, we have to have a national currency which is pitched to the whole production activity and export drive.

It's the Zimdollar, stupid!
Yes, creating a Bond Note as a surrogate currency to the US dollar may have been what our westernised confidence needed to make us believe in tentative steps back towards a national currency. But the Bond Note is resolving issues of transactional money availability. It will not resolve the whole issue of export competitiveness which, among many other factors, is a function of cost of sales. And pitching our production costs on the US dollar, whether real or surrogate, in a Southern Africa where the Rand pegs production costs, does not address the issue of cost of sales. Nor does the Rand itself, given the little economies of scale we can leverage against a huge economy that is in the neighbourhood.

We now need to decide on a national currency whose value is pitched to the whole question of restoring export competitiveness, recognizing the scale of activity here. I emphasise: the issue of currency is but one of the many factors towards that desired end. Many more issues would need to be addressed. But we cannot duck the issue of a properly valued national currency for much longer, more so now that the trigger for the productivity cycle has now been pulled so positively. Not this humbuggery, this hiding behind the Rand because we lack the courage to demand what we should have: a properly pitched national currency! And we should not fear, or aspire to be told our country, our people are great because we speak "good Inglish". Or in this case, we are good surrogates of yankee Dollar. To hell. Isoko risina musoro iroro, a tale without a head.

Icho!

nathaniel.manheru@zimpapers.co.zw

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