Friday, December 28, 2007

The Litany Bird is still away !

Friday 28th december 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

The Litany Bird is still away from the nest; let's hope she's having a good break.

I can remember three or four years back sitting with her round the kitchen table discussing the various cut-off points beyond which life would be unbearable in Zimbabwe. For the Litany Bird it was medical care and education for her son; once those had gone, she said, life would be insupportable. For me, it was not being able to get my own money out of the bank; that would be the point at which life would simply be untenable I thought. At the time Argentina - or was it Mexico - was in the headlines with inflation over 1000% and pictures of desperate people trying to get their money out of banks before the whole economy crashed.

Inexorably over the last few weeks the pace of Zimbabwe's collapse has accelerated; the decision by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Gideon Gono, to introduce the new bearer cheques within days of Christmas has brought about the nightmare scenario of thousands of Zimbabweans unable to get at their own money. It's not the first time this has happened; this is the so-called Operation Sunrise Two designed, says Gono, to relieve the shortage of bank notes. The new notes were issued on December 19, just six days before Christmas. The timing of Operation Sunrise could not have been more insensitive with thousands of people trying to get to their rural homes and buy a few little extras for the 'festive' season. Was it an act of callous indifference on the government's part or just the usual short-sighted inefficiency, or was there some more sinister plan at work, designed to cause panic and mayhem among the populace?

In the Litany Bird's hometown and in towns up and down the country, desperate people have been standing in queues for days on end, some even with their cooking pots while they wait in the endless lines. In an unprecedented move the Governor ordered the banks to remain open on Christmas day and Boxing Day but his order was disregarded and the only resource for desperate Zimbabweans was the ATM. There are strict limits on the amount one can withdraw and with the issue of the new notes, prices went rocketing up again; even the state mouthpiece, the Herald, was forced to admit that a bottle of Mazoe orange now costs 9 million Zim dollars in a state owned supermarket in Harare! The banks are saying that they were just not sent enough of the new bank notes to satisfy the demand so what was the point of their opening? Christmas for Zimbabweans was simply a non-event and with their usual arrogant disregard for the well-being of the people the Reserve Bank Governor and all the rest of the Zanu PF fat cats disappeared to spend their Christmas breaks far from the public eye. One thing you can be sure of is that none of the 'chefs' will be sharing the misery of the masses they claim to care so much about.

What next for a nation whose citizens have no cash and no food? Will it be more of the same in 2008 or will the people of Zimbabwe finally tell this utterly rotten government that 'Enough is enough'. I hear the ZBC is playing a jingle every fifteen minutes promising ' the mother of all harvests' next year. I'm sure the cruel irony of that cheap propaganda is not lost on the flood victims in Muzarabani and the millions of near-starving people throughout the country.

Ndini shamwari yenyu. PH

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