by Ntando Ndlovu, Africa Groups of Sweden, Harare
It is a fact that most of the ruling party leaders have said no to what they call ’text book economics’, particularly President Mugabe and the Reserve Bank Governor Gono. While Zimbabwe may be charting a new path in terms of development models, there have been no success stories to date beyond the rhetoric. Yesterday July 16, the Reserve Bank chief mocked those who say year on year inflation in Zimbabwe is over 7 million, stating (proudly, I would say) that it was (only!?) 2.2 million percent! For a person on the street it does not matter how many millions the rate is- it is simply unbearable!
Now, after all the experiments at the taxpayers’ cost, the ’government’ has taken it upon itself to import goods for distribution to all households in the country, starting with rural areas. The programme is engineered by the Governor of the Reserve Bank with Ministry of Industry and International Trade playing second fiddle – at least when one watches the video of the official launch of the scheme (yesterday). His Excellency, President Mugabe officially launched the ’BACOSSI to the People’ programme amid funfare. The goods were not purchased using money from Zimbabwe’s coffers, we are assured. Apparently, the country is ’using resources availed’ by some of our trusted friends from Russia and Ukraine. But no answers are given to questions like On what terms, how much was availed, how often would this facility be available, etc, by our Governor.
We were however told by the Governor:
’ A hamper that will last for a month for an average family of six, containing such items as cooking oil, laundry and bathing soap, flour and mealie meal would fetch Z$100 billion [US$4 at the official rate and less than a dollar on the parallel market rate], an amount that can only buy a loaf of bread presently’ .
Admittedly, provision of basics at affordable prices to the populace is a social priority today. But what is happening is unacceptable for me as a taxpayer. The Reserve Bank has stooped so low as to be the institution distributing 750ml of imported cooking oil to households, while industry is closing down. Haulage trucks are hired (hopefully not commandeered) to ferry the stuff around. Personnel from the Bank are redeployed while national industry and commerce infrastructure with experience in distributing such goods are lying idle. Yes, there could be some economic sabotage. But a line needs to be drawn somewhere.
How I wish that all this was just a bad practical joke! Cry my beloved country!