Chaos as zero deadline arrives

Today is the day Gono set to be the final day ofuse of the “old” bearer cheques, which have been sporadically introduced over the last two years. Not surprisingly, the poorly planned currency change over has been so hectic and stressful that it is going to be impossible to complete the transition as neatly as Gono might have wanted.

The nauseating disregard for ample planning as evinced by untold inconvenience experienced by Zimbabweans across the board is infuriating. It smacks of the narcissistic arrogance that has been the mantra of the Mugabe regime especially over the last few years.

For illustrative and realistic purposes, travel with me if you will, to Bveke communal area in the northeastern district of Mount Darwin. Here we find subsistence farmers and other rural people who will ultimately be denied just opportunity to exchange their “old” currency for the new. Why? Because Gono et al simply didn’t think enough of these people to warrant a more intense planning so to cover the following scenario.

In Zimbabwe’s highly centralized government, Gono’s announcement that he was changing the currency probaly still hasn’t been heard by everyone in the Bveke area even though it has been three weeks now. Such policy announcements are usually carried through the media, which in Zimbabwe leaves only two options; the Herald and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings.

If you live in Bveke, you probably have scant access to both of these. Both radio and television coverage are essentially non-existent in this remote area of Zimbabwe for two reasons. First and most importantly, with Zimbabwe’s tattered and rapidly regressing economy, hardly anyone in the rural outskirts can afford to mantain a radio much less a television set. It is just too expensive and simply not a high enough priority. Second and probably much more frustrating, if you own a television set and/or a radio in Bveke, those two are most likely the most underused pieces of equipment in your household. Bveke is just too far out to receive signal from Zimbabwe’s sole broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings. So even if you turned it on, the T.V. or radio will probaly pickup nothing.

People just didn’t know the change was going to happen as fast as it has. Gono knew this and did little to alleviate the mass confusion that resulted. I’ll explain that in a little bit.

First, I want to add another variable with regards to access that has essentially ensured that Bveke villagers were left out by the plans to change the currency. There are no banks, in Bveke. The nearest banks are in Mount Darwin and Dotito growth points, both of which are at least an hour away by bus (if the bus operats on that day given the stark fuel shortages ravaging the country). People have literally been camped on the grounds of the Zimbank in Mount Darwin. Yet Gono wanted everyone to exchange their old currency by depositing it in the banks. Add to this the fact that there are quite a few Zimbabweans living in Bveke and similar areas, that do not have bank accounts. Requiring people to deposit money assumes they have accounts into which to deposit that money. What happens if they don’t have a banking account?

On Saturday, the last banking day before today’s deadline, Gono directed all banks to close down to “update” their software. Again, this is something most people in Bveke didn’t get wind of probably till after they had already made the expensive trip wasting significant portions of their meager earnings.

These people and millions like them in rural Zimbabwe have been failed by the system.

That notwithstanding, the most telling indicator that Gono didn’t plan Zimbabwe’s rural population is found elsewhere. It is common knowledge that during August (late winter) most farmers are involved preparations for the upcoming rainy season. As such, this is when they are most earnest in collecting their earnings from Cottco and GMB (Cotton Marketing Company and Grain Marketing Board). Both these entities like the Herald and ZBH are parastatals. Of course Gono sent out the token “mobile reserve bank unit”–one car to serve tens of thousands of rural residents but that was just that a token. Most didn’t have a chance to trade in all their money.

The question that confounds me is this; if Gono knew he was going to introduce such widesweeping changes, why didn’t he enlist the support of all these government owned entities? The only way he could have overlooked this is by not thinking and planning ahead enough. Alternatively, the only other option is accepting that Gono didn’t take the plight of millions of Zimbabweans living in the hinterland of the country too seriously when decided to impose his “new” currency.

If all the above is true, which it is, here’s the most unnerving part to this whole saga; most Zimbabweans live in areas like Bveke where they have limited access to information and banks. Essentially, this latest monetary policy neglects the plight of the majority in Zimbabwe.

This arrogance, is the reason why some day the majority will rise up and repel a government which consistently overlooks and discounts them.

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