Mnangagwa caught between words and wallet

This is not the first time Mnangagwa has doled out foreign currency at a public event, probably a sign of lack of confidence in the ZiG currency.

IN a scene that appeared to have been ripped from a political cartoon, President Emmerson Mnangagwa found himself at the centre of a spinning irony storm at Nhakiwa Vocational Training Centre in Uzumba, where he recently launched the rebranded Youth Service in Zimbabwe Programme.

During his passionate speech urging youths to embrace the country’s newly introduced local currency, Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG), Mnangagwa was seen digging into his black suit pockets and pulling out a thick wad of US$100 notes to hand Lands and Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka US$500.

Masuka was wearing some khakhi farming clothes at the function.

“Uchibva pano wonotenga suit chikomana (From here go and buy a suit),” Mnangagwa quipped as he handed him the crisp notes.

The irony dripped like sweat on a crowded dusty ground, raising doubts about Mnangagwa’s commitment to his own currency.

Zimbabwe’s central bank recently launched a new “structured currency” backed by gold, as it sought to tackle sky-high inflation while stabilising the country’s long-floundering economy. The ZiG replaced the Zimdollar which was introduced in 2019.

This is not the first time Mnangagwa has doled out foreign currency at a public event, probably a sign of lack of confidence in the ZiG currency.

Recently, Mnangagwa gave an 80-year-old man US$800 for dancing at his grandson Yasha Mafidi’s memorial in Masvingo.

Looking at Mnangagwa during Zanu PF gatherings or other government events, one would think he is wearing double bulletproof but instead he will be protected by brand new US dollar notes.

Mnangagwa also counted US$600 crisp notes that were given to the Ziya Cultural Arts Trust trio led by comedian Sabhuku Vharazipi who joined the movement of the ruling Zanu PF party bootlickers.

“Vharazipi will get his US$300, Mbuya Mai John and Chairman will get the US$300 since they are together as husband and wife,” Mnangagwa directed the master of ceremonies.

Mnangagwa, who is a champion of local economic independence, delivered a rousing speech at the feared “Green Bombers” re-launch urging the youths to embrace patriotism ideologies.

“This day must remind you as youth that Africa's independence did not come on a silver platter. Many sons and daughters lost their lives during the fight against the brutal colonial rule of smith.

“We are independent because of our brothers and sisters who fought for our freedom. Now your duty as youth is to protect and guard our independence. You must work hard to develop, modernise and industrialise our economy.

“The youths of yesterday fought for our freedom. Now you must make them proud by working hard to develop our country. It's your turn now!"

He also urged the youths to embrace the controversial programme which he said was a continuation of the fight for their emancipation.

Speaking at the same occasion, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga said Zimbabwe was privileged to have a leader who is determined to create innovators among the youth.

 “Zimbabwe has made tremendous strides in prioritising investments in youth developments to unlock the potential of our youth,” he said.

Youth Empowerment, Development and VTCs minister Tino Machakaire pleaded with Mnangagwa to avail loans to the recruits on completion of their training.

However, opposition politician Nelson Chamisa told NewsDay in an interview that Zimbabwe must first resolve the currency of politics to unlock all economic challenges crippling the country.

“You preach about ZiG but in your pockets you have wads of US dollars. Your pockets must be aligned to what you believe is right.

“You can't indicate ZiG but you turn US$. You speak ZiG but you use US$. That is very inconsistent; we must begin by resolving the currency of politics,” he said.

Chamisa described the Zanu PF government as an apartheid currency characterised by leaders who do not believe in policies they craft.

“Zimbabwe is what we call apartheid currency. It depends on what you are because people don't have confidence in the government.

“Look, kombies use tokens as a form of change because they don't have confidence in the ZiG. People cannot follow policies when the government puts policies they don't believe in,” he said.

Economist Gift Mugano said the challenge with the ZIG was in terms of its acceptability, adding that it was also centred largely on the lack of creation of demand by the government.

“What we don’t need is to have leaders in government, starting from the present, not taking our currency as a currency of choice, then you don't expect everyone else below to embrace the local currency.

“So you would want to see any public forum where our leaders are holding Zimbabwe Gold and whatever they are doing, even whether they are giving donations to communities or gifts, they must give the local currency.

“So the challenge we have is that the irony is that when you do that, when you give the foreign currency, you are actually renouncing your own local currency.”

He, however, noted that the government should also lead by making its services available in the local currency.

“But the issue does not end there. It also goes further to things we have been raising over and over. Also we should see government services such as passport fees, which are paid to government, levies, should be in ZIG without any exception,” Mugano told NewsDay.

Several incidents of Mnangagwa giving individuals US dollars in public serves as a stark reminder of the complexities of fostering a localised economy.

While his intentions may be genuine, the disconnect between his message and his actions raises questions about the measures put in place by the government to safeguard the value of ZiG. Mnangagwa’s dilemma will likely be a hot topic for some time to come.

This display of US dollar notes stood in stark contrast to the leader's usual rhetoric.

He has long been a vocal advocate for embracing our own currency, often painting a picture of national strength tied to financial independence.

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