RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya last week became the first high-ranking public official to come face-to-face with a movement of Zimbabweans that have taken to social media to vent their frustrations.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mangudya — currently battling a cash crisis that has seen the central bank proposing to introduce bond notes pegged to the United States dollar — was in the hot seat on Thursday as activists, united by #ThisFlag campaign, demanded answers.
Evan Mawarire started the movement that has garnered thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook.
Some of President Robert Mugabe’s enforcers who maintain a strong presence on Twitter were quick to dismiss Mawarire’s campaign, which they claimed would not have an impact offline, but Mangudya’s experience could force them to rethink.
Mawarire did not mince his words, telling the governor that Zimbabweans did not want the bond notes.
“The general feeling is that it is not a well-thought-out solution. We are about to go with these bond notes to a place where we are too familiar with,” he said.
“We cannot pretend that we agree with or understand your idea. But we are clear that we do not want the bond notes. “We implore you to be ready to co-create real and sustainable solutions, instead of stop-gap measures that are sure to take us from the frying pan into hell.”
The Harare pastor, who last month had a nasty confrontation with Information Communication Technology and Courier Services minister Supa Mandiwanzira over his Twitter campaign, said the dialogue was not meant to embarrass Mangudya, but to relay what Zimbabweans were expecting from the central bank.
“Most importantly, we are here to save ourselves because we realise nobody is interested in doing so,” he said.
“We are here to save the little earnings we have worked so hard to accumulate since the economic disaster of 2008 created by our own government.
“Please tell [Finance minister Patrick] Chinamasa that whatever he has heard about citizens agreeing to the introduction of bond notes is a lie”.
One of the contributors said Mangudya’s justification for the introduction of the bond notes was not convincing.
“I did not hear anything of what you said. For me, it was all smoke and shadows,” he said.
Opposition activist and economist Vince Musewe who sat at the top table with Mangudya, said although he sympathised with Mangudya, he was not convinced the government knew what it was doing.
“We have a tyranny which is not using violence, but psychology to create in our minds that there is no outside. I listened to the president [Robert Mugabe] last week speaking about bond notes. According to him, it’s a done deal,” he said.
“They accepted bond coins, let us give them, they will get used to it. It got me so angry that this man is taking us for fools.
“The bond notes are the actions of an irresponsible government that has run a budget deficit of $2,5 billion they cannot fund and most of it to pay salaries and perks. Zimbabwe spent $400 million on cars and Ethiopia built a city with that same money.
“We have the wrong priorities and our value system is wrong. We have a government that thinks money grows on trees.”
Another contributor chipped in saying: “Politicians look at citizens as ornaments, not functional beings”.
Fadzai Mahere, a lawyer, twisted the knife, telling Mangudya to his face that his actions were unconstitutional, unreasonable and unfair.
“Bond notes are a creation of the governor with respect. A creation that’s unknown both at law and economics,” he said.
“Last week, I listened to the president addressing the Zanu PF central committee.
“He indicated that everyone, who is opposed to the bond notes is either political or ignorant. Well, I am neither,”
Mahere said the government was not being sincere when it claimed the bond notes would be pegged to the US dollar.
“If it was easy to say like the governor is saying that a piece of paper is equal to the US dollar, then back in 2008 ex-RBZ governor Gideon Gono would have drawn a line in the sand and said, listen no more devaluation,” he said.
“The bearers’ cheques are equal to the US dollar. There was a reason he could not do that.
“If it was that easy, [South African President Jacob] Zuma would have done that regarding the rand.
“The bond coins were created to deal with the issue of lack of smaller denominations of the US dollar, but even then, they did not have a basis at law and the fact that the law has been broken once is no licence for it to be broken again”.
Mangudya said the bond notes were not going to end Zimbabwe’s economic problems.
“We do not expect the bond notes to fix all our problems,” he said.
The RBZ says the bond notes would be introduced in October targeting exporters.