Zimbabwe: The Father of Re-invention

The political and economical crisis has turned Zimbabwe into a nation of innovators.

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Blessing Musariri is one of Zimbabwe’s leading authors and holds an MA in Diplomatic Studies from the University of Westminster.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then politics is the father, albeit of re-invention. Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans have had to re-invent themselves over the last few years – finding new ways to live, to survive, and to succeed in their lives that have lately been so unexpectedly challenging.

During the last ten years or so, just when one thought one understood the new order of things, they changed – new laws, new monetary policies, new parallel markets, any day could bring something new. And so, Zimbabweans learned how to adapt, survival skills became honed and minds alert and enterprising. These days, Zimbabweans are seeing the world: we are bolder than we have ever been and we have become Masters of the Order of the Loophole. If there is a way around a problem, we will find it. What has emerged clearly from «the crisis» that is somewhat heartening is that we are a nation of innovators.

In the heydays of fiscal confusion – the open black market, when USD5 could net you ZWD5 million in the bank as opposed to ZWD500.000 cash in hand – people quit their jobs to spend their day clustered in and outside banks «burning» money, beefing up their bank accounts and then swiping debit cards in the shops to their hearts’ content. Relatives in the Diaspora found that family subsidies were stretching a long, long way. Savvy, young men were in the streets dealing all day – arranging bank cheques, Real Time Gross Settlements (RTGS) at black market rates and the rest were smuggling diamonds and gold, but as the saying goes, there is nothing without an end. The Zimbabwe dollar took an extended absence of leave and the deals and US dollars dried up on the streets. Those who had precipitously left their jobs were wont to wish they hadn’t, and those who had no interest in formal employment found other lines of work – burglaries increased in our neighbourhood and to console ourselves we said the only thing that makes sense of the violation – «The owners came for their things in the middle of the night and were considerate enough not to wake us.»

It’s ironic, a friend and her husband moved to different pastures and one of her first comments was that it wasn’t as interesting living in a stable country and that strangely enough it was almost more difficult to get things done because there was no cutting corners. When the abnormal becomes normal, one has to question the concept of normalcy in a world where change is the only constant. One can only conclude that it comes down to the concept of ‘the greater good’.

The advent of the Inclusive Government brought a gradual stop to the descent and for the first time in a decade days passed on the news channels without any mention of dramatic developments from Zimbabwe. The country exhaled and not for the first time, people were filled with hope for better days.

The history of the ‘Zimbabwe crisis’ is long and never fully laid out at any one time; just another African country gone wrong, a hot zone, a segment of the evening news, a reason to call an expert onto the set of a special report and in the meantime, the process of reinvention continues. The current multicurrency economy is a more reticent animal than the parallel market economy, it is not so easy now to find, make or «burn» money. The loopholes are now restrictions akin to the biblical difficulties faced by a rich man trying to enter heaven. There are days when it feels like Zimbabwe is a ship caught in a dead calm and the real events are taking place deep below the surface. In the global village, if we consider the political equivalent of the African saying that it takes a village to raise a ‘child’, solutions (or the beginning of) are given to troubled countries by a well-meaning council of ‘elders’. What remains to be seen is whether simple first aid has been administered to a case better suited to a hospital stay. If it is a placebo that has been prescribed then everything now hinges on the collective will-power to recover.

A well-known television personality quoted a guest as having said, «So long as I wake up clothed and in my right mind, I am thankful.» We may have recovered from the madness but I suspect we have to look around for our clothes.

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DEL