Cathy Buckle's Weekly Letter from Zimbabwe
Rusty paper clip
Saturday 30th May 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
The unity government is being torn apart over the retention of the Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono. While they argue, threaten and grandstand, we look at our tattered lives.
In a box, abandoned and covered in dust and fluff, lies the evidence of my lost life savings, seizure of my home and property and destruction of my pension. I am not alone but am one of ten million Zimbabweans who find themselves in the same position, one that has unfolded in just 9 ugly years.
At the bottom of the box are the last accounts from our farm that was seized by the Zimbabwe government in 2000. The accounts show no income and there is a note attached with a rusting paper clip which says: "No compensation paid for house, fixtures, fittings, infrastructure, fencing etc." That statement remains true 9 years later.
Next in the box is a tattered orange cardboard file. Most of it's contents are still too painful to revisit. One section deals with lost life savings which had been invested in a bank that was closed down by Zimbabwe's banking authorities.
In dog eared, dirty bundles held together with melting, perishing elastic bands there are piles and piles of money. Purple 500 hundred dollar notes, olive 1,000 dollar notes and then strange things called 'bearers cheques. They are blue, red, brown, purple and green bits of paper with expiry dates and values ranging from 5 to 100 thousand dollars. They bear the signature of Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono.
Then other bundles with even higher denomination 'bearer cheques' ranging in value from 1 to 500 million dollars. These too have expiry dates and are signed by Gideon Gono.
There in the box are the records of new attempts to save money - futile efforts because Mr Gono slashed three zeroes from the currency and thousands became single dollars overnight.
More bundles of money, this time they are in billion dollar denominations and are called Special Agro Cheques. they too have expiry dates and are signed by Mr Gono: purple, green, brown, blue, valued from 5 to 100 billion dollars.
Then more records of how everything was lost again when Mr Gono imposed daily withdrawal limits from the banks. We could only draw out enough of our own money to buy half a loaf of bread a day; the queues were in the thousands and our money lost all its value before we could get it out of the banks.
Again Mr Gono removed zeroes from the currency; in a single swipe billionaires became paupers. New bank notes which started at one dollar soon got bigger as mismanagement continued and again we had bank notes for 500 thousand, 1 million, 1 billion. We went dizzy as notes were issued by Mr Gono for 1 trillion, 10 trillion. When Mr Gono's presses physically couldn't print the money fast enough, all out trillions, quadrillions and septillions were lost when trading in Zim dollars was suspended and we moved into US dollars.
At the top of the box is a small newspaper cutting. It quotes Mr Gono admitting that he removed money from private bank accounts to fund government expenses.
And after all this there is cause for argument?
Until next week with a view of scarlet poinsettias, love cathy
Labels: Zimbabwe Cathy-Buckle