IF there is any institution in the land requiring everyone’s unwavering support at this critical point in the life of our troubled nation, it is the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), as it painstakingly tries to navigate the economy through the treacherous financial rapids. The monetary authorities need unbridled goodwill in order for their interventions to work.
While we remain totally committed to see Zimbabwe successfully ride past these turbulent times, the seemingly half-hearted effort by the RBZ to re-establish a sound and normal monetary environment sometimes dampens the eager spirits as far as the issue of the country’s currency is concerned.
Despite it having been established ever since currency was invented that a currency is the heartbeat of any people, the RBZ has perennially and dismally failed to position Zimbabwe among the world’s nations who proudly flaunt their own currencies, no matter how weak they may be against other currencies. Many up to this very day may not even be aware that their country is the only nation on planet earth which does not have a real and credible currency that is recognised by other nations. And in a fortnight, the situation will even get worse after the central bank said it would introduce new currency notes to transact alongside the bond notes and coins. In this woolly move herein lies RBZ’s indecisiveness. If the central bank says it has finally come up with a new currency, what is stopping it from withdrawing all the bond notes and coins in one swoop and decree that within, say a month, the bond notes will no longer be legal tender? Why are we being asked to trade in so many different notes? Does the RBZ not realise that this move will merely complicate the transacting public’s life? While we are not prophets of doom, we may as well inform the RBZ that the very day that currency hits the streets Zimbabwe’s already complex pricing regime will be murkier with goods and services having more than half a dozen price tags for the new currency notes, the new currency coins, the bond notes, the bond coins, EcoCash, RTGS and the US dollar. At the moment it is an open secret that the existing payment forms have different price tags.
It would not be too crass for anyone to also conclude that the RBZ must still be haunted by its past escapades with this currency issue and would rather embark on half-baked measures to test the waters. At one point in Zimbabwe’s tortured history, the RBZ was complicit in the destruction of the country’s once very strong currency through wild printing of bank notes, which led to a yet to be broken global hyperinflation record of 500 billion percent in December 2008. Tonnes of gold bullion that anchored the country’s once powerful currency disappeared under the RBZ’s very nose. Hapless, Zimbabwe was left with zero option, but to join a number of nations that included Ecuador, East Timor, El Salvador, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Islands in using the United States dollar. The move effectively saved the southern African nation from being annexed into neighbouring nations, but it rendered the RBZ a toothless bulldog, without even a voice to bark. Between February 2009 and February 2019, there was bliss under the US dollar. Then the RBZ suddenly remembered, or was reminded by someone, that at one point it controlled one of the world’s strongest currencies and manoeuvres were instituted for the country to have its own currency, leading to the US dollar-led multi-currency system being banned in local transactions in June this year.
But that decision, albeit having been very bold under the circumstances, has not made things any better. Some may also be forgiven to conclude that the RBZ is, after all, no longer its own master, but merely dancing to the tune of the powers-that-be. We just hope and pray that the RBZ finds the guts to get its act together and convince the powers-that-be that politics and money matters don’t mix.