THESE are gloomy times, with the rand at an all-time low against the dollar. Which is why, here at the Mahogany Ridge, we were greatly startled by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s sudden and uncharacteristic appeal for financial assistance from hitherto much-maligned Western governments this week.
Hope certainly does spring eternal in the optimist’s withered bosom, and there he was, on Tuesday evening, Handsome Bob, in his first such overture in 15 years of fractious dealings with the US and Europe, cap in hand and calling for a strengthening of ties with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and diverse other imperialist institutions.
The appeal came in Bob’s first state of the nation address since 2007. And who could blame him for wanting to skip that particular exercise for a while? Matters were going dramatically pear-shaped by then, and there really wasn’t much in the way of report-back material after that. No good stories there, you could say.
In 2006, you may recall, a single sheet of toilet paper reportedly cost more than Z$400, while a whole roll went for more than Z$145 000. Inflation, according to The Economist, neared 80-billion percent in 2008 and 2009, when the treasury began printing 100-trillion-dollar notes.
That’s when the government began to abandon its worthless currency in favour of foreign currencies, including the rand. Demonetisation ends next month. When it started in June this year, one US dollar bought you 35-quadrillion Zim dollars. (It’s a great irony that, as novelty items, the Z$100-trillion notes are traded for hundreds of rands on eBay.)