Sunday, November 11, 2007

Zimbabwe's Monumental "Black Friday"

Today marks a significant day in History for Zimbabwe. On November 11th, 1965, Ian Smith signed the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Rhodesia from the United Kingdom. The move was frowned upon by the British, the Commonwealth and the United Nations because they condemned the move as illegal. Rhodesia kept her allegiance to Britain, until independence in 1980, when ZANU PF gained control from Colonial rule, and changed her name to Zimbabwe.

Sitting here in my tiny home office, contemplating the last five years away from Zimbabwe, it struck me that this coming week, November 14th in particular is a significant day for Zimbabweans throughout the world, read on and you will understand why;

Zimbabwe marks the 10th anniversary this week of "Black Friday", when its currency plunged a record 72%, an episode widely regarded as the precursor of its subsequent economic meltdown. Under pressure after street protests by former guerrillas who were demanding payment for their role in the 1970s liberation struggle, President Robert Mugabe ordered unbudgeted payouts for 50 000 of the war veterans. The Zimbabwe dollar fell by 71,5% against the greenback, while the stock market crashed by 46% as investors rushed for the United States dollar. Since then, it's been downhill all the way, with inflation the highest in the world at nearly 8 000% and widespread shortages of basic commodities such as fuel and sugar in a country that had been a regional breadbasket.

Emmanuel Munyukwi, chief executive of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), vividly remembers the events of November 14 1997. "I remember people crying on that day because then 25% to 30% of our investors were foreigners, and when these foreigners started offloading their shares, our stocks got hammered," he said. Since then, the overall value of stocks on the ZSE has been stuck at about $2-billion. "In fact, we haven't moved in real terms since that day," Munyukwi added. Many analysts saw the events of a decade ago as a clear signal of the government's willingness to buck the laws of economics for short-term expediency, a trend that continues to this day. "We have been consistently doing things economically wrong for the past 10 years," said Bulawayo-based economist Eric Bloch. "It was irrelevant whether or not they [war veterans] deserved the compensation; that wasn't the issue. It was beyond the country's means."

Quite sad to think that Zimbabwe was once considered Africa's breadbasket ~ today ravaged by a handful of intently selfish megalomaniacs, she plummets further into oblivion while the world stands by watching less appropriate or seemingly unimportant events occur across the globe, simply because Zimbabwe has nothing to offer...simply sad!

***Megalomania (from the Greek word μεγαλομανία) is a psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, genius, or omnipotence - often generally termed as delusions of grandeur. The word is a collaboration of the word "mania" meaning madness and the Greek "megalo" meaning an obsession with grandiosity and extravagance, a common symptom of megalomania. It is sometimes symptomatic of manic or paranoid disorders.