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Banks mustn’t be run like tuckshops

By Tanonoka Joseph Whande

EMPOWERMENT and indigenisation are two words that are always on the lips of our government officials. The words go well with Zanu PF’s current malfunctioning propaganda efforts.
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wo weeks ago, Information minister Jonathan Moyo toured a girls’ school in Harare and urged someone to “empower the girl child”. Who is Moyo urging to empower the girl child?


I have always found it ludicrous that policy-makers, especially the president and his government ministers, always “challenge” the business community or some professionals to attain certain levels of achievement when it is always them who hold the keys to the accomplishment of those targets.

Anyway, for sometime now, the government embarked on indigenisation and on the empowerment of certain sectors of our society. The results are a laugh. It seems to me that the government’s idea of the empowerment of women is giving them loans to start rabbit breeding projects, communal gardens, soap making and peanut butter production.


Deputy Gender minister Shuvai Mahofa is fond of leading these poor women into song and dance as they receive mesh wire for their rabbit cages.


However, does indigenisation mean the destruction of established farming activities and carving out the land to give to friends and relatives? People accept the offers of land from Zanu PF and, as proud new landowners, they will build little huts and a small cattle pen to accommodate one petrified donkey in the middle of the once productive farm.


Once the lonely ass has been tied to a pole near the homestead, they rush to the nearest district administrator or Zanu PF political commissar’s office to beg for a five-kilogramme packet of maize seed and demand free tillage from the District Development Fund.


Having gone through these sequences, they then proudly go on to the streets to demonstrate their support for land reform and show up at the airport to see President Robert Mugabe disembark while they proclaim to British premier Tony Blair that they are now sovereign.


We have murdered the agricultural sector and displaced so many citizens. Indigenous farmers, most of them unskilled in farming, have moved in and are unable to feed themselves, let alone the nation. The new farmers are competing with the rest of the people to get free food handouts from the much-maligned non-governmental organisations.


When we read that those displaced white farmers have found better homes elsewhere and have been welcomed in Mozambique, Zambia and Nigeria, the government press reports that the very same displaced white farmers are sabotaging work on the confiscated farms here in Zimbabwe!


Zanu PF’s unskilful foray into private business has destroyed many a company. Flawed political appointments of incompetent directors have caused companies like Zupco to go under in spite of the fact that it was subsidised by the government and held monopolies in every city. Look at Zesa, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, Ziscosteel and other parastatals.

Instead of assisting and promoting big investors and their businesses, the government is keenly competing with tuckshop owners in selling ballpoint pens, books and music tapes. Instead of watching in satisfaction while strong and viable local companies compete to sponsor football, the government uses taxpayers’ money and sponsors football trophies, nudging corporate sponsors away.


Even musicians are now sponsored or subsidised by the government, thereby killing the spirit of competition that usually brings out the best in artists.


The heart of the matter is that indigenisation has become synonymous with the failure of black-owned and black-run businesses in Zimbabwe. The issue has nothing to do with race but has everything to do with skill, ability and professionalism. Sadly, even our indigenous black government appears to be doing much worse than the white one it replaced.


Why is indigenisation failing in the commercial banking sector? Can we continue to trust indigenous business bankers with our money?


So far this year alone three major indigenously owned banks, namely Intermarket, Barbican and Royal Bank, have been closed while billions of investors’ money has been put at risk or lost through their collapse.

The fourth this year and the most recent indigenous bank to disgrace the nation is Trust Bank. I do not know how Trust Bank ended up owing $1,4 trillion to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ). That is a large amount in any language. It is said to be equal to Zimbabwe’s domestic debt.


Under the Troubled Banks Fund, the RBZ extended assistance to Trust Bank but liquidity challenges persisted. So how did the RBZ reach a decision to continue pouring money into this bank?


Doesn’t the RBZ read the early warning signs about the impending demise of major financial institutions whose operations the RBZ monitors? How is a decision to give a bank so much money reached and who approves it?

It is a matter of public record that Zanu PF failed this country. It is an absolute shame that this government never thinks that economic practices and laws adopted, implemented and followed by other countries and the world community do not apply to us.


About two months ago South African trade unions threatened to strike and to organise nationwide demonstrations. The rand was too firm, they complained; the rand was too strong and they wanted it weakened because it was then costing them jobs. Lucky people!


And at that time, RBZ governor Gideon Gono was squandering money overseas promoting his financial tuckshop called Homelink.


The bearer’s cheques we use are just paper money. But forgetting that paper money is fake money, Gono was at the same time warning Zimbabweans about real fake paper money in circulation in our country.

Gono is writing a very sad curriculum vitae for himself. Is he doing his job well?


How many banks have so far been closed or placed under curatorship during his gubernatorial stewardship? How many new banks have been established during the same period?


I suggest Gono sits down with Tito Mboweni, the governor of South Africa’s central bank, and ask for advice. But first he must be serious and produce bank notes for this country. How can we take him seriously when he uses Zimbabwe as a piece of real estate in a game of monopoly, which accepts only paper money?


Until these jokers understand that no amount of insult directed at Blair, US President George Bush, the International Monetary Fund and others would improve our lot, we shall remain forever mired in financial doldrums and misery.


*Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Zvishavane-based writer.

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