In a bank queue the other day when the money ran out. It prompted a swell of anger and discontent, unusually heated for normally placid Zimbabweans. “It’s down to the final lap now,’’ shouted one man. Everyone agreed the cash crisis will be fatal in the end. But one lady helpfully suggested it might be the final lap of a qualifying round and not of the race itself, the main event.
The Reserve Bank building looks splendid like this, bathed in the golden light of sunrise streaming in from the east. It is designed to symbolise the ancient reed basket used to carry abundant crops and the village granary for storing them. It also symbolises an upended maize cob, the source of wellbeing and sufficiency in food, the very Horn of Plenty, the cornucopia filled to the brim.
The Horn of Plenty is empty now and that is bound to be fatal too unless there are radical changes in economic policy.
Already, petrol stations are limiting plastic money purchases, supermarkets give less and less in ‘cash back,’ if any at all, and international airlines are not selling full fares on local plastic, our ‘virtual money.’
It simply can’t go on like this. Or can it? Since Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez popped his clogs in 2013, his country has declined to where Zimbabwe was in 2008 – empty shops, acute shortages of medicine and massive inflation with no end in sight. Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro has been forced to start talks with his fractious opposition after street protests showed no sign of stopping. Protesters are planning a march this Thursday to the presidential palace in Caracas, sealed off by the military and police since the attempted overthrow of Chavez in 2002.
Maduro will go only when the country reaches rock bottom, wherever that is. Zimbabwe may seem near rock bottom, near meltdown, but how do you explain the ‘ultimate braai’ at Alex Sports Club last Saturday? The day-long barbecue, sponsored by Castle Lager, attracted 5,000 people who listened to Oliver Mtukudzi and a top musical line-up while guzzling beer and eating their way through 10 tons of meat.
I give up.
At least we will know in the next week if there has been a meltdown of Donald Trump.