Yes, the planned 18 November 2016 street protest against bond notes was a flop but people should understand why and, even more significantly, why there will and MUST be more street protests in the coming month.
Last week I spoke to my Aunt and she was worried sick she had not sold her last batch of chickens. People are not buying anything because they have no cash and she is stuck with 25 starving chickens! Like so many other Zimbabweans she hard very strong reservation about the bond notes but when the choice is bond notes or nothing; there is no contest.
Many people have spent many long hours, some spending the night, queuing for the $20 per day maximum withdrawal. There are reports that someone died in the queue! If these people were offer bond notes, they would have taken them and not have to spend another minute in the queue!
When government learnt that there would be a planned street protest on 18 November 2016 to demand the withdrawal of the bond notes in circulation since 1st November. The regime responded by delaying the release of the bond notes delivering a double blow on the would-be protesters. First of all, demanding the withdrawal of bond notes when they have not been issued takes the sting out of the protest.
Second, by delaying the issue of the bond notes and squeezing the supply of the foreign currency even harder than ever forced the people to make the hard choice of having to accept bond notes or have nothing.
The regime decided to round up all the suspected ringleaders of the protest the night before the protest and rough them up. This was a bonus, just to be certain the protest flopped!
Whilst the authorities have taken great comfort that the 18 November street protest flopped, the must know that there will be many more street protests against the bond notes because nothing has been done to address the root causes why the people do not want them. It is worth repeating some of these causes here.
Zimbabwe had its own local currency the Z$ but scrapped it 2008 when it was impossible to use it for any meaningful business traction because it was losing its value by the minute with the world record inflation rate of 500 billion percent! The same forces that fuelled the hyperinflation are still at play and it is a matter of time before the value of bond notes start falling relative to the other foreign currency.
When the Z$ lost its value many people lost their savings, pensions and it was near impossible to conduct any business there was widespread shortage of goods and services as everyone was forced to close shop. The people fear the return of these dark days again with the re-introduction of the local currency, the bond note – which is the Z$ by another name.
The shortage of foreign currency in the country is to be expected because Zimbabwe has become more dependent of imports as local production has continued to fall even after the scrapping of the Z$ in 2008. Instead of having workers in formal employment many Zimbabweans are eking a living as vendors selling many imported goods.
The introduction of the bond notes will not help the army of vendors who need foreign currency so they can continue to import good for resell. These small time traders will not get the foreign currency from the banks at the official exchange rate and forced to buy on the black market at exorbitant black-market exchange rates.
It is the ruling elite who will have unfettered access to foreign currency at official exchange rate and sell at the black-market rate. So the bond notes will just be yet another racket for the ruling elite to once again get rich on the backs of the poor!
The present arrangement with its cash crunch is not ideal, still people will rather have a shortage of a stable currency than be buried alive in a worthless one. The 90% plus unemployed are able to eke a living as vendors at present but will not do so once the bond notes are introduced. The poor have everything to lose from the introduction of bond notes. Everything!
The people’s economic hardships are not limited to the bond notes alone, there is the unemployment, rampant corruption resulting in $ 15 billions of diamond revenue being looted and no one ever arrested, collapsed health and education services, no clean running water, etc., etc. These are all worthy causes over which people should be in the street right now demanding redress.
What the people of Zimbabwe have yet to realise is that there will not be any meaningful end to the economic misery as long as President Mugabe and his Zanu PF cronies continue to enjoy absolute power to do as they please. The implementation of meaningful democratic reforms followed by free, fair and credible elections, is the holy grail, which every Zimbabwean should be in street, sleep in the street and if necessary die in the street demanding.
“We are our own liberators!” people love saying. Well here is the chance to put that into practice – join the debate for the way out, join street protest, anything else other than just sitting there! Besides, the liberating therapeutic value of active participation is priceless!
This nation will continue on its present nose-dive into the abyss and nothing of any value will ever be accomplished until we cure ourselves of this corrupt and tyrannical Zanu PF madness!