In the preceding period, Zimbabwe had been gripped by what money traders termed ‘currency burning’ – a system of purchasing foreign currency from the parallel market, then re-selling it through a non-cash bank rate almost twenty times the street value. Someone who has access to hard cash would clandestinely withdraw it from the bank, return to the street to purchase more foreign currency, and then restart the process again. This is typical business ingenuity in an environment buckling under the strain of anti-market regulatory instruments!
|Queuing at a bank in Zimbabwe|
For the common person, queuing for a paltry Z$ twenty thousand mandated by RBZ as a maximum cash limit has become habitual, an amount that can only purchase two loaves of bread and one return bus ticket for the day. Zimbabwe National Army Captain Maramba who initiated a ‘citizen arrest’ on this author while photographing one such bank queue confessed that Zimbabwe’s queues, though newsworthy, are a blight that reinforce a negative image of the country. His argument was that international news agencies like BBC and CNN have used such pictures to tarnish the ‘good image’ of Zimbabwe, and anyone taking photographs would need to be authorised under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Incidentally, it is this Act, also known as AIPPA, opposition party negotiators and civic society organisations have vowed to repeal at the earliest possible time when a new Cabinet is installed. According to Central Intelligence Organisation [CIO] officers who ‘interviewed’ the author for six hours at the Central Police Station, the banking crisis has been caused by economic sanctions that have deprived Zimbabwe of balance of payment support.
Contrary to popular opinion, Robert Mugabe’s CIO is generally staffed with intellectuals who can defend the establishment at short notice. My arguments for a banking system that responds to and is determined by market forces fell on a fertile patch of fanatical scrutiny. They insisted that our central bank has a right to engage in commandist quasi-fiscal activities because
Being in some form of transient captivity, I would not have dared explain how an environment starving citizens of liberty, grossly violating property rights and despising the Rule of Law, even with a mixed economy, would rank poorly on the scale of prosperity. Yet the experience of James Shikwati in the Far East has exposed him to a ‘new brand’ of tyrannical capitalism whose delicate balance between the voracious demands of the market and political egocentrics seems to yield positive results. “Microsoft, Mac Donald, Ford and a host of other American multinationals have benefited from exploiting painfully low labour costs in the Far East,” concluded the CIO operative. Our free market ideology is under 'presidential' scrutiny in