Zimbabwe: Dump Negative Attitude to Promote Use of Our National Currency

Group Political Editor

Last Saturday, President Mnangagwa announced a raft of measures to instil some discipline in the financial sector, stabilise the exchange rate and curb price increases of basic goods.

In simple terms, the measures announced by the President are meant to promote the use of the Zimbabwe dollar and could be a precursor to an eventual mono-currency when conditions allow for the local currency to become the sole legal tender.

Many economists welcomed the measures as critical in dealing with the indiscipline that had permeated the whole financial sector.

However, as expected, there was a clique seemingly afflicted with a disturbing malaise of self-hate that scorned the interventions.

Many have become familiar with this clique. It is disdainful to anything that points to the promotion of the local currency. Yet very few countries have prospered without the use of their own currency.

The danger that we have in Zimbabwe is that we have a people constantly bombarded with negative perceptions of who they are, to a point of self-hate. Any reference to what defines us as Africans and Zimbabweans is despised in favour of anything foreign.

The rallying call by the President that "Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo" is a call for self-reliance and self-pride in our culture, national institutions, emblems, and that development is largely spearheaded by locals.

Caribbean author, Nigel Thomas, who was born on St Vincent Island and migrated to Canada, traces the origins of the self-hate culture to colonialism and slavery.

"Africa in the Caribbean," he says, symbolised savagery and the word "Zulu" in his village had the same virulent meaning as cannibal. "Clearly, if we despised Africa and Africans (then) we hated ourselves," he says.

Just like Nigel Thomas, Joan Erakit from Uganda had to undergo some kind of self-exorcism to regain her Africaness. In a 2017 article published by OkayAfrica.com, titled "An African in Need: How I learned to Stop the Self-Hate and Love my Africaness," Erakit recounts her struggles of trying to assimilate in her new community in the United States and at school.

She hated everything about herself.

Erakit hated being African, hated her parents' "accent" and that everyone in Minnesota knew that she had come from Africa. Her class would chant "Coming to America!" every time she entered the class, referencing the Eddie Murphy film.

But everything changed when a Nigerian girl joined her class. She was unashamedly proud of her unique accent, dressed in the manner she so wished and animatedly spoke to her mother in her native language. It was because of the Nigerian girl that Erakit realised the beauty of being herself.

The disease that afflicted sister Erakit and brother Thomas seems to have embedded itself in some of our local compatriots who are in serious need of exorcism.

The negative attitude towards any talk of the Zimbabwe dollar needs a proper dissertation. They surely need to be rescued from thinking that anything initiated by a fellow African is not good enough.

This kind of thinking predisposes that we are too weak to chart our own way, too weak to challenge prevailing dominant narratives, a clear sign of being hostage to mental enslavement.

Yet, if truth be said, having our own national currency is part of establishing an authentic national identity. A national identity is crucial in cementing a nation-state. Countries have plunged into chaos because of lack of a national rallying badge of identity. Without cohesion and unity, there is no peace and, without peace, there cannot be any sustainable development.

We cannot be a nation without a national badge of identity. Beyond our varying ethnic backgrounds, it is these national badges that bind us together as a nation. Symbols such as the national flag, languages, national anthem and the coat of arms are national badges of identity that makes us a unique and proud nation. It is out of these national symbols that we develop an affinity towards one another, and have a sense of belonging derived from our shared history and experiences.

Our national identity as a nation is therefore incomplete without our national currency. The late prominent author, Chenjerai Hove, once said that a national currency is a citizen's pride and is part of the arithmetic of our lives when we are born and learn to count.

Hove's reasoning is hinged on the idea that a national currency carries our national identity and dignity and the lack of it fractures the national ego.

Beyond the aesthetics of national identity and national cohesion, very few doubt that maybe the time has come for Zimbabwe to review the optimum future currency regime given the challenges currently bedevilling the multicurrency system.

A research paper authored by Keith Jefferis, Gibson Chigumira and Erinah Chipumho, titled "A review of Zimbabwe's optimum future regime (2013)", is arguably one of the best documents that tackles the pros and cons of a multi-currency regime.

The document posits that: "When a country relinquishes the exchange rate as an instrument, it loses a mechanism for protecting itself from economic shocks. Arguably, national autonomy over monetary policy is supposed to give a country the maximum freedom and flexibility, through the use of various monetary policy instruments, such as interest rates and reserve requirements, to steer the economy in a particular direction."

Indeed, central banks are supposed to inspire confidence in the economy by keeping inflation low and stable. Sadly, over the years, the RBZ has suffered loss of control.

Given the fact that monetary policy is a key instrument of macroeconomic management, the constraints inherent in a multicurrency regime endanger the attainment of specific country goals.

Using a foreign currency as the main anchor inhibits the Central Bank from being the lender of last resort in providing the much needed liquidity to banks in distress, and further prevents the bank from responding decisively in times of crisis.

Now is the time for Zimbabweans to embrace who they are and stop the negative attitude towards the Zimbabwe dollar. We need to work towards dealing with self-hate. Using our own currency goes beyond economics. It defines who we are as a nation state.

And by the way, shopkeepers in supermarkets, wholesalers, radio DJs, journalists; we also have work to do in instilling confidence in the use of our local currency. We no longer have the "bond note" or "RTGS". It is the Zimbabwe dollar. There is power in naming. Let's keep this in mind.

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