By Bart Star-Williams
From the undoubted and inspired passages of the Holy Bible we get glimpses of the land of Ophir. The land got the name from one of the sons of Joktan, an early descendant of Noah after the great flood. (Genesis 10:29)
Ophir migrated southwards after the great flood of Noah and the land where he settled came to be referred repeatedly in the Bible as “the land of Ophir”.
In 1 Kings 9:28 we learn that King Solomon sent his men together with those of King Hiram to Ophir and they brought back 420 talents of gold.
In 1 Kings 10:11 we learn of further unquantified cargoes of gold and algumwood which were shipped from Ophir to Israel. We are told by the holy verses that algumwood was used to make musical instruments and to make supports for the temple of the Lord.
At one point King Solomon had reserves of 3 000 talents (225 tonnes) of gold from Ophir, which he donated for the construction of the Lord’s Temple (1 Chronicles 29:4).
Unlike his father King David who spent time waging war and collecting foreskins from vanquished Philistines, King Solomon was a great and shrewd dealmaker. He had commercial agreements with many nations, one of which was the land of Ophir where he sourced incredible amounts of gold.
What then is the value of the 420 talents of gold King Solomon got from Ophir?
A talent measure of those days is believed to have been roughly the weight of a man, say 75kg. So, a quantity of 420 talents works out to 31,5 tonnes of gold. At today’s prices of around US$1 500 per ounce this lot was worth US$1,6 billion. The reserve of
3 000 talents of gold which he donated to temple construction was worth US$11,4 billion! This is a huge stockpile of gold from this place called Ophir. So, we need to ask the question now: where is this place called Ophir in former times?
The ships that went to Ophir were stationed at Ezion Geber on the shores of the Red Sea (1 Kings 9:26). This indicates a southerly journey. The journey also needed “men who knew the sea,” (1 Kings 9:27) no doubt to negotiate the treacherous cross trade winds associated with the Horn of Africa.
Next, we get our cue card and roadmap from trees and wild animals. King Solomon received Algum wood (used interchangeably with Almug) from King Hiram who obtained it from Ophir. The word algum suggests that the wood was in the form of planks but does not specify the type of tree. But we are told King Solomon used it for supports and steps in the construction of the temple and Royal Palace. This clearly indicates the wood was from hardwood trees such as Mukwa, Teak and Mahogany. These are some of the hardest woods in the world and they are found in the Savanna lands of southern Africa which include the Zimbabwe of today.
We then learn that the ships brought ivory, gold, apes and baboons presumably from Ophir on their three yearly voyages. All these are also to be found in the area covering the latter day territory of southern Africa.
The 3 420 talents of gold (260 tonnes) mentioned by number from Ophir represent an enormous treasure of gold. Any mining engineer will know this represents a huge and spectacular mining operation. Indeed such an operation would be an awesome engineering fit and would come with a huge dumpsite.
This spectacular mining operation is still spectacular today in the form of a national recreation park full of mystique and wonder.
It is to be found 120km north of Harare — The Chirorodziva (Sleeping pool). Its surrounding hills which clearly started off as dumpsites back in the day are now clothed with beautiful lush foliage! Anyone who has been to the Chinhoyi Caves will testify at the awesome nature of the main shaft and associated network of tunnels. The complex nature of the tunnels at the site is a clear reflection of the fabled complex wisdom of the ancient King Solomon who must have done all the planning and engineering for his men to carry out! This is where the
3 420 talents of gold came from!
So then, for all intents and purposes, we can safely conclude that our present-day Zimbabwe is sitting snugly on the ancient biblical territory of Ophir, a land laden with gold like no other mentioned in the Bible. The country should therefore move with haste to reclaim its Biblical heritage and restyle its name to Zimbabwe-Ophir. This is certainly a more pleasing double-barreled name than the old moniker Zimbabwe- Rhodesia.
On a different note, the presence of the Ngoma Lungundu amongst the Remba people of Zimbabwe and their Jewish customs confirms the association of this land with King Solomon and his mining enterprises (This is a long story on its own). So then, all these things show clearly Zimbabwe is sitting on part of the land of Ophir. The land fabled in the Bible for its abundant gold!
Nuggets from Zimbabwe-Ophir
l The word “Shona” is derived from the Indian word “Sona” meaning “gold”. Indian traders who came to trade their wares for gold with the Munhumutapa Empire gave that name to locals meaning ‘the people who give us gold”.
l Sixteenth Century Spanish explorers who ventured into the hinterland to the banks of present-day Angwa River reported in their journals to the Spanish King how they witnessed Shona people retrieving a piece of gold “as large as a man’s arm” in a gold panning session.
l A couple of years back, a local paper reported how artisanal miners in the Kwekwe area retrieved a chunk of gold weighing 19kg (the weight of a man’s arm!) which they lodged with Fidelity Printers before turning against each other.
Turning now to the situation in Zimbabwe, these are well known facts:
l The country has no foreign exchange reserves worthy of note with which to support its currency.
l The country has poor, outdated industrial machinery and insufficient electricity supplies and is unable to produce goods competitively for the international markets.
l The country has a balance of payments deficit and a chronic shortage of foreign exchange.
The exchange rate of the local currency is at the mercy and whims of speculators, detractors and agents provocateurs.
The country has failed to get sufficient support from international financial institutions to stabilise the exchange rate.
Zimbabwe is one of the most highly mineralised countries in the world and yet is wallowing in economic confusion and poverty.
Yet in spite of all these challenges, the country can still have a stable exchange rate that takes a level chosen by the official monetary authorities if the gold standard with special adaptations is adopted. The ancient gold history of the country mentioned earlier and proven by present-day geological reports are a strong justification for the gold standard.
What is the gold standard? It is a monetary system in which the local currency is pegged against a fixed quantity of gold. And gold has unquestionable value and is legal tender in all countries on earth. A currency on the gold standard has unquestionable value and cannot be attacked easily by speculators and agents provocateurs.
All the countries we now call “developed” were on the gold standard at critical stages of their economic growth in the 19th century. Here we talk of the USA, UK, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Canada and Russia. China was not on the gold standard due to limited gold resources, but resorted to the silver standard, which worked well for them. Yet all these countries were not worthy of mention by God in the Bible as sources of gold. So, Zimbabwe occupies a place of pride under the sun as the only veritable source of gold on the earth.
The answer to the cyclical economic poverty trap in Zimbabwe is to put the Zimbabwe dollar on the gold standard with special adaptations. The country has more than enough gold to make it work. The ancient King Solomon certainly showed us the way. And who can doubt the wisdom of that one?
The failure of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to seize control of the exchange rate from economic saboteurs and agents provocateurs is the biggest cause of recent unprecedented inflation and economic chaos in Zimbabwe.
For Zimbabwe, the gold standard represents a home-grown solution needing no external intervention. Its implementation will certainly show Zimbabwe’s special place of pride under the sun because of the abundance of its gold. It is a trail-blazing enterprise that will show other African countries the value of their natural resources in economic endeavors.
How do other countries market their gold and use it to best advantage? What can Zimbabwe learn?
Across the Limpopo, South Africa markets its gold via the Krugerrand which is highly regarded around the world as a bellwether investment when times are hard.
Between 1974 and 1985 about 22 million gold Krugerrand coins were imported into the USA alone. This enormous success encouraged other countries to mint and issue gold bullion coins of their own. So, we had the Canadian Gold Maple Leaf, the Australian Nugget, the Chinese Gold Panda, the American Gold Eagle and the British Britannia coin. Notwithstanding the fact that the Krugerrand features on its obverse side Paul Kruger, the granddaddy of apartheid, the coin is the most popular in the world
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, markets its gold through jewellery made by Aurex Jewellery, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. This jewellery is popular with fashionistas and the impact of this enterprise on the bigger economic picture of Zimbabwe is not known by the common man.
Picture in your mind, a patriotic and creative RBZ that does not blame demons or Covid-19 for its failure to manage the economy. They work closely with the ministry of Mines, which is running a “command gold” programme. Every two weeks they run a public auction to sell gold, the Munhumutapa Gold Series. The series consists of a miniature gold Zimbabwe Bird with diamond eyes. The birds weigh 750g, 500g and 350g respectively — a family.
Investors from all over the world are invited to come and buy the series. Locals are not excluded and can buy in the Zimbabwe dollar at a rate of exchange determined by monetary authorities. These auctions can fix the exchange rate and bring it within control of the RBZ.
What will be the impact of putting the local currency on the gold standard?
The USD$/Zim$ will be fixed at a desired rate and it will be maintained there by deliberate official control.
Prices will come down in a dramatic and massive manner throughout the economy. This is called deflation. In a robust economy, deflation is completely undesirable because it signals a slowdown in economic growth. But in the case of Zimbabwe at this juncture deflation is completely desirable because it will come in as a correction of the errant and unjustified inflation in recent times.
Local currency incomes will rise in real terms.
The political bar in the country will be raised and “politics of the stomach” will vanish. Politicians whose stock in trade is the misery of the people will have nothing to peddle. Confidence in government and the banking system will return.
Macro-economic stability will return and this will attract both local and foreign investment. This will fuel up economic growth.
The RBZ will not need to print more money or increase denominations because the current stock of cash will increase in value. To achieve the same effect as this, the RBZ would need to print more money. This must be avoided.
The mechanism of the gold standard will trigger better circulation of cash outside and inside the banking system. This will eliminate prevailing premiums on cash money over electronic money.
The gold standard will entice hoarders of money to submit it into the financial system
Yes, Mr Governor, we have done the contact tracing for you for free! Put the Zimbabwe dollar on the gold standard and stop blaming demons and Covid-19 for your failures please. In another place, and at another time reckless statements such as this would quickly put you on the bread line.
This writer is available for further consultations and services to the government and people of Zimbabwe on the gold standard to stabilise the exchange rate at a desired level.
l Bart Star-Williams