Zimbabwe: How to Ruin an Economy

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Robert Mugabe

By Dr Victor Oladokun

Beginning this Monday, Zimbabweans will be able to exchange 175 quadrillion (175,000,000,000,000,000) Zimbabwean dollars for five US dollars!!! Yes you heard right. 175 plus fifteen zeros for just five miserly US dollars!!!

It hasn’t always been so. Exactly 20 years ago, I visited Zimbabwe for the very first time. I checked into the beautiful Meikles‬ Hotel in downtown Harare, the country’s scenic jacaranda-lined capital. The exchange rate then was an impressive 20 Zimbabwean Dollars to US$1.

Back then, the former liberation hero turned President, Robert Mugabe‬, was ‘only’ into the 8th year of what has turned into a life-long Presidency.

Fissures in the political and economic systems were already visible. Political opposition was meant in the literal sense and systematically dealt with. Agriculture, the mainstay of the economy, was being destroyed one farm at a time. White minority farmers, who at the time owned more than 70% of the country’s arable farm land (an objectionable and unsustainable status quo), were beginning to see their farms forcibly acquired by ‘liberation fighters’ and corrupt government officials. Some not-too-lucky white farmers were given just hours to get off of lands they had owned for generations. Many others and their families were mysteriously murdered on their farms.

Members of the opposition who were opposed to the new Socialist experiment or who dared to suggest negotiated land transfers and a different business model, were hounded by security agents and labelled ‘traitors.’

All the while, ‘Uncle’ Bob Mugabe was busy being cheered on by his adoring and fawning countrymen.

Back then in 1995, the beauty and splendor of the All Africa Games simply masked the country’s deep ethnic, economic, and political divisions.

A few weeks ago, the now 91-year old President-for-life Robert Mugabe attended Nigeria’s Presidential Inauguration – a celebration of Democracy‬ and a peaceful transition of power from the Jonathan‬ Administration to Muhammadu ‎Buhari‬. How this Nonagenarian dictator could keep a straight face at the event is still beyond me. But keep a straight face he did, even as Nigerian journalists ambushed him with questions about when he was going to step down and hold free and fair elections in his own country. The irony of the circumstances seemed to elude him.

Today, Mugabe stands as a colossus. He long ago successfully vanquished former colleagues in the struggle for independence — Joshua ‎Nkomo‬, Ndabaningi Sithole‬, and Rev. Abel Muzorewa‬, to mention a few. He alone stands as a putrid reminder of all that is wrong with despotic African leadership.

Entrepreneurs, world renowned black and white Zimbabwean sportsmen, members of the political opposition, and yes, hundreds of thousands of farmers have long gone into exile, leaving Mugabe to preside over the carcass of a once proud nation.

Today, the Zimbabwean dollar is worthless. It is used for everything from toilet paper, wall paper, to heating fuel.

So, after almost 30-years of systematic and reckless financial, economic, and political mismanagement, a magnanimous President Robert Mugabe has announced that come this Monday (June 15, 2015), his countrymen and women will no longer be limited to the official Zimbabwean currency. Instead, they will be able to take their wheelbarrows and trucks to the bank and exchange 175 quadrillion (175,000,000,000,000,000) Zimbabwean dollars for five US dollars! What amazing ‘financial growth’ for a nation that was once one of the strongest African economies with an exchange rate of 20 Zim Dollars to US$1, just twenty short years ago!

Zimbabwean dollars

I wish my Zimbabwean brothers and sisters all the very best. I pray that their days of adversity be few, and that the yoke of bondage upon them be soon lifted.

Meanwhile, its time for the African Union to politely tell Uncle Bob, it’s really time to go!

Dr Victor Oladokun,
CEO, 3D Global Consult.

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