Monday, January 5, 2009

Zim personality of the year 2008

Yes, its that time of year again, the time when blog writers gather round their laptops to debate and deliberate as to who should be awarded the prestigious, utterly bogus Zim Personality of the Year 2008.

Let’s review this year’s contenders:

First off, there is Robert Mugabe, the (self-declared) Prez, also known as “Uncle Bob”, “the Old Man”, and referred to by numerous expletives. He is a wily old character, although the consensus is becoming that he has slightly lost the plot in his dotage. His last big speech at the funeral of a colleague was the usual communist style rant, but the fire in his belly died down to barely a smoulder as he seemed to drift into a gentle slumber, and then wake up to rant against the colonial oppressors, those Nasty British, whose Prime Minister needs to undergo a sanity check (the only bits of his speech conducted in English by the way, for the benefit of the international media) and to call the Zimbabwean President Elect, and leader of the opposition party, a “political prostitute”.

Then there is the Department for Information. Or rather Misinformation as it’s called, shortened to the “Min of Mizz”. There are several colourful characters working there, ranging from the self-declared (Mis)Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu. Mr Ndlovu told a media briefing that the cholera outbreak that has been declared a national emergency was “a calculated racist terrorist attack on Zimbabwe by the unrepentant former Colonial power which has enlisted support from its American and Western allies.” Like many African countries, Zim has a cholera season every year – the difference this time is that the medical system has collapsed completely, so it can’t be contained, and due to the collapsing infrastructure, sewage pipes leak on the streets and the municipal drinking water - when rarely available - remains untreated.

The self-declared Deputy Minister of Mizz is one Bright Matonga. He has various nick-names including “Dim”, “5 Watt” and a few others that I won’t repeat here. He was rolled out to face the international media shortly after the first round of elections, to explain why no results were forthcoming. On the first day, he seemed rather astonished that anyone outside of Zimbabwe was even interested. On day 2, he rather fancied himself as a SpinDoctor of Note and started dressing snazzily in loud shirts that strobed and played havoc with the white balance of the TV cameras, the performance of which was far more interesting than any of the nonsense that came out of his mouth.

But the winner is the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Mr Gideon Gono, known colloquially as “Gono-rhea”. Gono-rhea has presided over some classic media gaffes this year. First up there was the exciting news that Zimbabwe was home to one of only a handful of Mercedes Benz Brabus v12 bi-turbo supercars. This car was allegedly delivered to the Reserve Bank by DHL and left in the company car park, during a pay dispute with local bank workers, while its new owner, Gono, was on holiday in the Far East. In his defence, he said it was a company car, paid for cash-strapped tax payers, and that it was in fact another type of Mercedes Benz that he got for a bargain price of less than two hundred thousand US dollars (unlike a Brabus which costs US $365,000).

Then there have some spectacular economic decisions that have been made this year, designed to frustrate the business sector, confuse the elderly, and incite mayhem. In fact, we even had a mini riot, when the soldiers were unable to draw their pay (there being no bank notes at all) in the run up to Christmas. During the course of the year, we’ve had 10 zeros deleted from the currency with the introduction of new bank notes, some worthless coins re-instated, and the continued practice of expiry dates on notes (that we were told to disregard), and of course, the famous 100 billion dollar note (now discontinued).

During 2008, writing cheques, paying for items in cash, withdrawing cash from the bank without a salary statement and making bank transfers have been declared illegal. The daily, weekly and monthly cash withdrawal limits from your own bank account usually start at out at the equivalent of a dollar or two but by the end of the month its not worth enough to buy a pencil. Paying for items in foreign currency is still technically illegal but the only way to actually pay for anything these days as there are not enough bank notes available to withdraw the equivalent of one US dollar (nobody even knows what the rate should be – it was several quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars to one US dollar back in October – by now it must be several hexillion (ZWD 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or thereabouts – and the biggest note is 500 billion).

Still with me? Ok, well now for the icing on the cake. A recent story in the Herald, the only government-accredited national newspaper, reported about that Gono has published his memoirs, detailing how current US Prez George W Bush head-hunted Gono to become Vice President of the World Bank. Gono says that at the time he was on a targeted sanctions list, and that the World Bank offered to remove him from the list and “see what it could do with his friends already on the sanctions list.” With such ludicrous fabrications, Gono-rhea’s book is bound to be a best seller.

God knows we could all do with a laugh.


xelent said...

Why hasn't this govt gone bankrupt? What on earth is holding it together? Is it foreign capital or something, it just seems absurd that the govt hasn't fled like Argentina

Fambai Zvakanaka said...

The government is bankrupt. They've just issued a 100 trillion dollar note! They keep on printing the money and using it to buy US dollars, largely for their personal use. It is absolutely baffling how long they can get away with it, but many people remember the independence war and do not want to take up arms. So they make a plan to survive, or leave the country, and the status quo remains. It's immensely frustrating, but we hope it can't last forever.

Thanks for your comment!


xelent said...


So clearly the US govt is complicit in all this then, by selling them dollars?

Or is, that private individuals or institutions are selling dollars to them?.. Its quite fascinating. Excuse my ignorance

Fambai Zvakanaka said...

I don't think its quite that straight forward. The Zimbabwean government buys US dollars by purchasing them for cash on the black market, ie buying it from traders or businesses that need foreign currency to import/or export their wares, or individuals who travel abroad. They also raid foreign currency bank accounts (and its only legal for companies to set this up).Companies with forex accounts are rarely able to use their accounts -- you can't get foreign currency cash out of them without permission from the government bank.

It is fascinating. You are not ignorant, feel free to ask more questions, and if I can answer them, I will.

Zimbabwe defies all conventional models!

xelent said...

Apologies, I realised that the use of the word 'fascinating' was perhaps quite patronising.. This of course wasnt my intention, as I'm aware that this govt is quite brutal and repressive..

Surly the black market would only buy Zimbabwe currency for dollars if it felt they had value? Who gives them value beyond the black market?

Perhaps I'm missing something simple here. But it always struck me that the UN is seemingly more concerned about the lack of govt in Somalia with its tacit involvement with the military, but yet it cant seem to make Zimbabwe crumble to ruinous rubble by removing any value to their currency?

Again, I'm probably missing something here

xelent said...

ahh, I think I know what you mean.. If the bank of zimbabwe prints a load of new money which they then give to the black market for dollars... The black market gets the benefit of the new money being worth the same as the old money.. therefore increasing profits..

However they would have to use the currency double quick mind given its current inflation rate..

John said...

I look forward to your latest blog!
Is it possible that you could maybe write a more regular one; as news of Zimbabwe is very slow to arrive from other sources and most articles repeat the same information, always devoting half the article to 'Mugabe lost the 1st round presidential poll, latest cholera/inflation figures and the Sept. GPA... all of which is old news for anyone not in Zim trying to follow it on a daily basis. P.s. I occasionaly read the Herald for fun. The editor is quite the comedian. This week he urged zimbabwean's to prey that Mugabe be given more days to live and hr also claimed that Zanu PF won the March 29 poll. Actually it's not funny anymore. Mugave is credited with being intellingent but none of his words that I have heard point to anything more than huge and poorly constructed lies. How is it that millions of zimbabweans are starving and thousands have died from disease, yet there is not one who has seemingly attempted to remove Mugabe? In Europe former Soviet states such as Ukraine have had revolutions in recent years over much less.

Fambai Zvakanaka said...

Hi John,

thanks for your feedback! I will try to write more often - my goal is at least once a week, more if inspiration/indignation/laughter strikes and I am near my laptop! I do work though, plus its a full time job living here - I know that sounds ridiculous but its gospel.

Keep reading, keep commenting, and I'll keep on writing.

Best wishes