Zimbabweans reacted warily to the country’s planned new currency on Tuesday, fearful of a return of destructive hyperinflation despite assurances from President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The new “Zimbabwe dollar” — which does not yet exist in paper form — is supposed to replace the US dollar and South African rand that the country has used since 2009.
Hyperinflation of the old Zimbabwe dollar rendered it worthless ten years ago when the government printed money recklessly and the economy collapsed.
The central bank announced on Monday that US dollars and rand would be replaced by two local parallel currencies — “bond notes” and electronic RTGS dollars, which would combine to become the new “Zimbabwe dollar”.
Bond notes were introduced in 2014, while electronic RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) dollars came in earlier this year.
Both were in theory worth the same as US dollars, but have traded far below the greenback in value.
“This is all so confusing,” said Shamiso, a shopper in a Harare supermarket. “A few months ago we were told we would not have a new currency soon — now we are told the Zimdollar is now the only currency we can use.
“We don’t even know what it looks like. This does not inspire confidence. We need to plan and how do you plan when things change overnight?”
Rocketing inflation –
Zimbabweans have little faith in the economic record of the ZANU-PF government, which was led by President Robert Mugabe until 2017 when he was ousted in favour of Mnangagwa.
The country has recently endured another bout of sharply rising prices, with official inflation now at nearly 100 per cent — the highest since the hyperinflation era when it hit 500 billion per cent.
Mnangagwa — who has vowed to revive the country after the Mugabe era — said in a statement that “for our economy to truly take off, we need our own currency”.
He added that foreign currencies had “left us at the mercy of US dollar pricing” fuelling inflation.
“What we have done is going back to normalcy,” he told reporters.
The currency crisis had created three tiers of pricing — one price in US dollar cash, and two far higher prices for paying in bond notes or electronic RTGS.
The main opposition MDC party said that the public would not trust the new currency.
“The government wants to introduce the Zim dollar to pay civil servants and its restive army. All this is a damp squib,” Tapiwa Mashakada, MDC’s secretary for policy and research, told journalists.
Nomuzi Moyo, a 21-year-old cashier at a leading supermarket in Victoria Falls, said they had been ordered to stop accepting US dollars.
“We still don’t understand where all this is going, and as for the prices there has not been any communication,” she said.
Togo announces presidential election for February next year
Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe
Togo will hold elections in February next year, when incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe is expected to seek a fourth term in office.
A government decree published late Thursday after a cabinet meeting said the presidential election will be held on February 22 with a second-round organised if no candidate gets a clear majority.
Gnassingbe has been in power for nearly 15 years since succeeding his father Eyadema Gnassingbe, who led the country with an iron fist for 38 years.
The decree said for the first time Togo citizens living abroad will be able to cast their votes at embassies in the countries where they are living.
Election campaigning will start on February 6 and end February 20.
Opposition parties and civil society leaders, including Togo’s bishops, last month called for the election to be suspended to allow for a reorganisation of the constitutional court, the electoral register and the national electoral commission.
In early May, the Togolese deputies voted a constitutional amendment allowing Gnassingbe to run again in 2020 and 2025, but also to benefit from immunity for life “for acts done during presidential terms”.
Senator Orji Uzor Kalu bags 12 years imprisonment
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday sentenced Senator Orji Uzor Kalu to 12 years in prison for fraud.
Orji Kalu, a serving senator representing Abia North and former governor of Abia State, was handed a 12-year jail sentence by Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court Lagos for N7.65 billion fraud.
Kalu was tried alongside Slok Nigeria Limited, a company he chairs and Mr Udeh Udeogu who was Director of Finance and Accounts of the state house at the time Kalu was governor of Abia State.
The convicts were accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of conspiring to divert and diverting over N7billion state fund in an amended 39-count charge.
The EFCC alleged in one of the counts that Senator Kalu did procure a company solely owned by him and members of his family – Slok Nigeria Limited – to retain in its account, an aggregate sum of N7,197,871,208.7 on his behalf.
The prosecution had argued that the N7.1 billion formed part of the funds illegally derived from the treasury of the Abia State Government and which was laundered into several bank drafts before they were paid into Slok Nigeria’s account.
Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs SAN, further argued that such action was in violation of Section 17(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, and the defendant was liable to be punished under Section 16 of the same Act.
Kalu and the other defendants were also accused of receiving the sum of N460 million allegedly pilfered from the Abia State Government treasury between July and December 2002.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts.
While the matter lasted in court, the prosecution called a total of 19 witnesses and the defendants testified on their own behalf.
Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed to avoid questions at Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo
Events kick off with meetings at the Nobel Institute and a large press conference with the Peace Prize winner
The Norwegian Nobel Committee is grappling with challenges just days before the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize arrives in Oslo.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has made it clear he won’t attend any event where he could publicly be asked questions, either by the press or even children, and the committee finds that “highly problematic.”
Olav Njølstad, Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute and secretary for the committee that annually awards the Peace Prize, told Norwegian Broadcasting that the Nobel Institute and the Nobel Committee wishes Abiy Ahmed had said ‘yes’ to meeting Norwegian and international press.
Ahmed’s decision to avoid any events in which he’d need to answer questions has thus resulted in a highly amputated program for the “Nobel Peace Prize Days” that should begin in Oslo on Monday, December 9.
Events traditionally kick off with meetings at the Nobel Institute with committee members and a large press conference with the Peace Prize winner that’s broadcast live.
For the first time in many years, the Nobel press conference has been cancelled, as have traditional in-depth interviews usually conducted by NRK, the BBC and Al Jazeera.
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