CATHY BUCKLE'S LETTTER FROM ZIMBABWE!
Dear Family and Friends,
This week I write about peculiar and mixed messages. This is very similar towhat our lives have become here - disjointed, fragmented, confusing and almostalways with nothing guaranteed.
Everyone thought there would be an extension to the 21 days given by theReserve Bank to hand in old currency and convert to the new money - that isn't really money and has been pruned of three digits. It seems we Zimbabweans haven't learnt a thing though, least of all the lesson that what we most expect is that which is least likely to happen. There was no extension to the deadline and in the first week of the new money most people were totally confused. Having just got used to counting zeroes and being able to distinguish between hundreds of thousands, millions and even billions, now suddenly we are back to hundreds and thousands. Our purses, pockets and handbags are frighteningly light in weight and most people are adding on three zeroes in their calculations to try and work out just exactly how much things really cost. The loss of three zeroes really is an illusion and it is just going to take a bit of time to get used toless digits which still don't buy enough and still leave you stone broke.
On the first night after the old notes had gone, the newsreaders on ZBC TV wereon a propaganda high, glowing and grovelling and singing the praises about what they said had been a smooth changeover. This was despite monstrous queues at banks, building societies and cash machines which were painfully slow andclearly visible. By the next day the propaganda had done a complete U turn and ZBC was talking about people swarming banks and police having to control crowds who were stranded with the old money. Then on the third day the spin was back and the reports were about the happiness of the "Transacting Public." You simply had to laugh by then and wonder about which clever cookie had come up with the phrase Transacting Public!Five days after the money changeover deadline had passed came a speech from the Governor of the Reserve Bank. This was serious stuff now and his vote of thanks included everyone who is anyone in Zimbabwe and went on for some considerable time.
Nothing was said about the fact that neither the old money nor the new is backed up by adequate gold reserves. Everything assumed elevated proportions in the Governors speech and ordinary words became proper nouns and were givencapital letters. We were told that a Special Window had been opened for SpecialCases of people in remote areas in a Mop Up Programme to hand in their old money. This was apparently the last attempt to recover 10 trillion dollars ofmoney that had not been accounted for. You have to shake your head in wonder at the utterly absurd thought of desperately poor people living in dusty villages without electricity or running water having 10 trillion dollars buried in theirback gardens!
There are some good things about life in Zimbabwe this week - it's raining leaves and summer is almost upon us. The temperatures are warming up and everything in the garden has started growing again. For this we are thankful.
Copyright cathy buckle 26August 2006. http://africantears.netfirms.comMy books "African Tears" and "Beyond Tears" are available from:firstname.lastname@example.org