Cu­ri­ous case of learned ig­no­ra­muses

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion - Spec­trum Jo­ram Ny­athi

ZANU-PF has just lost a cru­cial by-elec­tion. It can be ar­gued that the loss of Nor­ton is a bad omen for the party given wa­ter­shed har­monised elec­tions sched­uled for mid2018. Ex­cept that the party re­quires fewer omens than de­ci­sive ac­tion in tack­ling the scourge of cor­rup­tion and in­ter­nal fac­tion­al­ism, be­fore it can re­ori­ent vot­ers’ sen­ti­ment.

Since the July 31, 2013 har­monised elec­tions which left the MDC-T dis­ori­ented, Zanu-PF had not lost a by-elec­tion.

Equally true is that for a long time the rul­ing party has not res­o­lutely dealt with fac­tion­al­ism or cor­rup­tion, it has only paid lip ser­vice to the twin evils, to the cha­grin of the voter.

It is not an im­plau­si­ble con­jec­ture that in the Nor­ton by-elec­tion, peo­ple ex­pressed their frus­tra­tion through the bal­lot.

That frus­tra­tion man­i­fested in a wide mar­gin against Zanu-PF in the highly-charged by-elec­tion on Satur­day. An in­de­pen­dent can­di­date, Temba Mliswa, a for­mer pro­vin­cial chair­man of the rul­ing party who was ex­pelled more than a year ago, polled 8 927 votes against Zanu-PF’s pre­ferred can­di­date, Ron­ald Chind­edza, who re­ceived 6 192.

Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe and Vice Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa have been on a cam­paign to de­nounce both cor­rup­tion and fac­tional pol­i­tics in the rul­ing party. Their ex­hor­ta­tions have gone un­heeded, and no ac­tion has been taken.

Now even the army, which for all its po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness has gen­er­ally re­served its com­ment on po­lit­i­cal mat­ters, has spo­ken.

Speak­ing barely two days after the Nor­ton loss be­fore the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on de­fence and se­cu­rity in Harare on Mon­day, army Chief of Staff (ad­min­is­tra­tion) Ma­jor Gen­eral Dou­glas Nyika­yaramba, ac­cused se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials of un­der­min­ing the coun­try’s econ­omy through cor­rup­tion.

He said the de­fence bud­get was far less than what the army re­quired for food, train­ing and salaries and that this was af­fect­ing morale in the uni­formed forces.

“Cor­rup­tion is a can­cer which is tak­ing the na­tion back­wards, thereby caus­ing in­se­cu­rity to the na­tion,” said Ma­jor Gen­eral Nyika­yaramba. “(T) his is mainly be­cause as a na­tion we con­tinue to ig­nore crit­i­cal is­sues that will bring sta­bil­ity and con­fi­dence to in­vestors who would want to bring busi­ness to this coun­try.”

He said cor­rupt peo­ple were us­ing fac­tional pol­i­tics as a shield from the law and that or­di­nary peo­ple were watch­ing with grow­ing anger as the cul­prits went un­pun­ished.

“It (cor­rup­tion) is now a se­cu­rity threat be­cause it is caus­ing peo­ple to cre­ate mafias or al­liances where if one is ac­cused of be­ing cor­rupt, he quickly asks for the help of other big names to pro­tect him or her,” con­tin­ued Maj Gen Nyika­yaramba.

“De­vel­op­ment is be­ing de­railed so that in­di­vid­u­als can ben­e­fit at the ex­pense of the whole na­tion,” he said.

The al­lu­sions are ev­i­dent enough, and peo­ple are an­gry.

Those cam­paign­ing for the rul­ing party can­di­date in Nor­ton, in­clud­ing Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Saviour Ka­sukuwere and VP Phelekezela Mphoko, ac­cused those call­ing for the ar­rest of peo­ple sus­pected of cor­rup­tion of sell­ing out, treach­ery or of not be­ing bona fide Zanu-PF mem­bers.

Po­ten­tial vot­ers must have read in this ar­ro­gance, a re­fusal to own up and a bla­tant de­fence of cor­rup­tion and a per­fect man­i­fes­ta­tion of the ugly face of fac­tional pol­i­tics in Zanu-PF.

In what can be de­scribed as a rude ver­dict, the peo­ple of Nor­ton seem to have warned Zanu-PF ahead of 2018 elec­tions: if you don’t deal with the rot­ten eggs in the party that’s how we shall deal with the party as a whole.

“Do not look at the face of the in­di­vid­ual or their po­si­tions when deal­ing with cor­rup­tion be­cause that will lead to dis­as­ter,” Maj Gen Nyika­yaramba told the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on Mon­day. It is can­dour of a rare kind.

---Bond and bul­let--One thing that’s been ac­knowl­edged is that the coun­try is fac­ing se­ri­ous eco­nomic chal­lenges. There is no need for any­one to pre­tend they are re­veal­ing any­thing new, least of all cap­tains of in­dus­try.

We have a prob­lem, and ev­ery re­spon­si­ble per­son should be propos­ing a so­lu­tion rather than telling us what doesn’t work. Give us what works.

The Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe didn’t dream up bond notes and plas­tic money for their own sake. There was a prob­lem. Peo­ple didn’t have cash, they still don’t. The sit­u­a­tion is dire in ru­ral ar­eas where peo­ple don’t en­joy the lux­ury of plas­tic money.

Re­serve Bank gov­er­nor John Man­gudya ex­plained in May when bond notes were first mooted that a lot of for­eign cur­rency was be­ing ex­ter­nalised.

And we all know it’s not the or­di­nary Jack and Martha who does that. It’s the ed­u­cated peo­ple who have ac­cess to US dol­lars, travel a lot out­side the coun­try, have for­eign bank ac­counts and can sex up ex­port re­ceipts and fal­sify in­voices to cheat the tax­man.

It’s the same peo­ple who are eas­ily con­fused when­ever gov­ern­ment an­nounces any pol­icy which seeks to ben­e­fit the coun­try. They don’t un­der­stand indi­geni­sa­tion, they don’t un­der­stand SI64, they don’t un­der­stand “buy Zim­babwe”, they don’t un­der­stand the Na­tional Pledge, they don’t un­der­stand Na­tional Youth Ser­vice, they don’t un­der­stand black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment, they don’t un­der­stand so­lar gey­sers and pretty much ev­ery­thing in be­tween - plas­tic money, STEM, com­mand agri­cul­ture, so long as it is na­tive.

So they don’t un­der­stand bond notes. It’s the same peo­ple who have worked them­selves into a red sweat to poi­son pub­lic sen­ti­ment about bond notes in the name of what hap­pened in 2008. To them the US dol­lar rep­re­sents nir­vana.

So I was not sur­prised to read as late as Wed­nes­day this week the fol­low­ing com­ments from the Zim­babwe Na­tional Cham­ber of Com­merce:

“If you look at the bank trans­ac­tions at the mo­ment, about 4 per­cent only at any branch are de­posits, which Val­u­a­tion of mo­tor­ing ben­e­fit The value of mo­tor­ing ben­e­fit should be de­ter­mined based on “cost to the em­ployer”. The cost to the em­ployer in this case is based on a deemed cost which is pro­vided for in the Fi­nance Act.

The deemed cost ba­sis of valu­ing the mo­tor­ing ben­e­fit is also manda­tory in the sense that the pre­scribed amounts are not sub­ject to vari­a­tion in re­la­tion to the run­ning costs or the ve­hi­cle’s value. Cal­cu­la­tions of the ben­e­fit are goes to show that there is a se­ri­ous prob­lem. If peo­ple can­not de­posit, it means that even the is­sue of plas­tic money comes into ques­tion.”

A sec­ond one fol­lowed: “Dr Man­gudya will have an op­por­tu­nity (at a break­fast meet­ing in Harare yes­ter­day) to ex­plain to peo­ple so that they un­der­stand. As we speak, peo­ple are mov­ing their cash out­side the coun­try be­cause they have not un­der­stood what the bond notes seek to achieve.”

Let’s clear the ob­vi­ous is­sues. There is anx­i­ety in the mar­ket about the bond notes, and the RBZ is guilty of con­trib­u­tory in­ep­ti­tude in its com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Now dear reader, let’s re­vert to the learned quo­ta­tions. Fo­cus on the word “peo­ple”. In­clu­sion of the Ben­e­fit for VAT Pur­poses

IN the sec­ond quo­ta­tion, are you and I ever in­vited to such im­por­tant peo­ple’s meet­ings where a neck­tie and suit are trea­sured more than the qual­ity of your con­tri­bu­tion?

Which peo­ple at­tend? The same peo­ple who are al­ways a phone call away from Dr Man­gudya, play golf with him, prob­a­bly went to school to­gether and have been ap­proached for pos­si­ble so­lu­tions to the cash short­age, and their un­der­stand­ing of “think­ing out­side the box” and “bit­ing the bul­let” is to seek tem­po­rary refuge in the South African rand as the new an­chor cur­rency!

Sec­ond, you and I spend our day wait­ing in bank queues to get $50 or $100. Now we are told “the peo­ple” are tak­ing their cash out of the coun­try be­cause they don’t un­der­stand the im­pli­ca­tions of bond notes. Which peo­ple?

Where would you hide $100 when you don’t have food, you haven’t paid rent and school fees? Who else would have ac­cess to mil­lions of dol­lars to take out of the coun­try but those who want more clar­ity ev­ery­day yet will never un­der­stand?

How do such peo­ple then ex­plain to us after the break­fast what the bond notes mean when they don’t un­der­stand them?

You think there will be an epiphany, a blind­ing flash of sud­den en­light­en­ment dur­ing the snack­ing pe­riod?

No won­der for­eign­ers in­sist they don’t un­der­stand the coun­try’s indi­geni­sa­tion laws. Who ex­plains to them? Who do they get into con­tact with in and out­side the coun­try?

Third, look at the ab­sur­dity of it. The RBZ came up with the idea of bond notes to limit the ex­ter­nal­i­sa­tion of US dol­lars.

Now in­dus­try is try­ing to turn cause into ef­fect by telling us they are ex­ter­nal­is­ing US dol­lars for fear of bond notes! Hello!

Which came first: ex­ter­nal­i­sa­tion or bond notes? Were bond notes not pro­posed be­cause of mas­sive ex­ter­nal­i­sa­tion of forex un­der the multi-cur­rency sys­tem?

In fact con­tin­ued ex­ter­nal­i­sa­tion of US dol­lars as con­fessed by ZNCC makes bond notes not just nec­es­sary but in­evitable be­cause it cre­ates a huge deficit in the mar­ket.

Fourth, they might need to en­lighten us on this one. Is ex­ter­nal­i­sa­tion a cor­po­rate gov­er­nance strat­egy or a naked crime un­der Zim­bab­wean law?

If peo­ple can de­mand that Pro­fes­sor Moyo be ar­rested over mis­ap­pli­ca­tion of Zimdef funds, what should hap­pen to those who choose to ex­ter­nalise scarce for­eign cur­rency?

And then the RBZ’s own in­ep­ti­tude. Why are peo­ple al­lowed to keep mil­lions of dol­lars in for­eign cur­rency in their trunks and safes?

Why is that not a crime? Sec­ond, why are re­tail­ers and whole­salers al­lowed to de­mand cash for trans­ac­tions of over $100 in­stead of plas­tic money or RTGS?

Don’t tell us in th­ese days of hi-tech it’s still a chal­lenge to find out who han­dles what cash trans­ac­tions but they can­not be ac­counted for in the bank­ing sys­tem?

Let’s ex­am­ine the first quo­ta­tion. Th­ese “peo­ple” re­ally don’t un­der­stand. The ZNCC doesn’t un­der­stand that use of plas­tic money and the RTGS sys­tem nec­es­sar­ily means fewer cash de­posits.

And what about money kept in Econet, Tele­cel and NetOne mo­bile cash wal­lets? Wasn’t that a re­ac­tion to a rigid bank­ing sys­tem which didn’t re­spond to or­di­nary peo­ple’s re­quire­ments, the ease of do­ing busi­ness with­out usu­ri­ous bank charges?

Now “the peo­ple” at ZNCC want to con­vince us that plas­tic money trans­ac­tion is not work­ing be­cause they don’t see peo­ple de­posit­ing cash in bank­ing halls.

Hope­fully they see them with­draw­ing?

Again, hope­fully th­ese are not the same com­rades Man­gudya wants to en­list in his cam­paign to ex­plain the bond notes to the poor who don’t have fat for­eign cur­rency ac­counts to pro­tect.

Now for a part­ing shot: the bond notes might just achieve their in­tended goal be­cause peo­ple don’t like them.

That should keep them in per­pet­ual cir­cu­la­tion hence no need to print more than are nec­es­sary.

The Amer­i­can dol­lar has failed us be­cause peo­ple want to keep it in their pocket.

Money should be more a medium of ex­change than a store of value.

It should help us ac­quire the as­sets we need rather than be­come a fetish. Worse if the cur­rency is not your own.

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