When Morgan Tsvangirai got his first job in the 1970s, money was worth a lot more. A dollar then could buy five beers, the price of a pint today. This is one of the reasons why the MDC-T leader attacked President Mugabe over the state of the economy recently. According to Tsvangirai, life was better in Rhodesia because beer (and possibly the cost of living) was cheaper.
This is a very common, and yet equally sterile argument by Tsvangirai and like-minded people who do not know that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow.
“When I started work I was given $450 which was equivalent to the same amount in pounds. A dollar could buy five beers. We recall those days with nostalgia,’’ Mr Tsvangirai said while addressing party youths in Harare on Wednesday.
What he forgot to mention, though, is where one could get five beers for a dollar.
In South Africa, a 350ml bottle or pint of beer costs R10 to R14; in American liquor stores 500ml of beer costs on average US$1,80; while a brew in a Chinese bar will set you back just 55 US cents. In the United Kingdom, Spain and Japan, beer costs more – US$3 in Britain and US$4 in Japan – than the Zimbabwean average of US$1,50 at a bar.
Although beer is relatively cheaper in Zimbabwe, this is not the point.
In the United States, a six-pack of beer cost US$1,49 in 1978, the price of a single beer today. A US dollar in 1970 in America is now worth US$6,02. That is to say that in 1970, US$1 had the same purchasing power as US$6,02 does today.
So, how then does this become a Zimbabwean problem? How does the price of beer prove that the Rhodesians ran a better economy?
The man whose marketing tagline during last year’s elections was “Morgan is more”, is himself like the dollar. With every day that passes, his worth is getting less. He was more in 2002 during the Presidential election when he got 1 258 401 votes, less in 2008 with 1 195 562 and in the 2013 general election even less with 1 172 349.
It comes as no surprise that Mr Tsvangirai is full of praise for the Rhodesians. After all, it was die-hard Rhodies who helped found his party.
The tragedy is his attempt to brainwash his party’s youth into believing that white minority rule is better than black majority rule. The 62-year-old opposition leader wants to use beer (or its price) to convince the youth that life in Rhodesia was better.
Maybe this explains the lavish lifestyle Tsvangirai led for almost five years as Zimbabwe’s prime minister.
It is probably because life is expensive in Zimbabwe that Mr Tsvangirai wants to purchase a US$4,5m mansion that was bought and renovated using public funds.
The sprawling mansion was purchased from South African-based Mr Justin Davenport in 2007 for US$800 000 and Government initially renovated it for US$1,5 million.
The H-shaped mansion in Harare’s Highlands suburb was at the centre of a storm after the former PM and his relative, Hebson Makuvise (Zimbabwe’s former Ambassador to Germany), allegedly misappropriated funds disbursed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in 2009 to pay for the purchase of the home.
Life is so expensive in Zimbabwe that Tsvangirai in 2012 was said to be “only” paying a “modest” US$1 400 monthly for the upkeep of his love child with a Bulawayo woman, Ms Loreta Nyathi.
But despite taking financial care of his son, economic hardships made the MDC-T leader refuse to help Ms Nyathi obtain a birth certificate for the baby. In fact, the state of the economy made him fail to meet the tot for over a year.
In 2012, Tsvangirai hosted what was dubbed the wedding of the year when he tied the knot with Ms Elizabeth Macheka.
Before getting married, Tsvangirai paid another woman, Ms Locardia Karimatsenga Tembo’s family, US$36 000 in lobola. He later reached a US$300 000 out-of-court settlement with Ms Karimatsenga Tembo.
But there was more to come.
A South African woman, Ms Nosipho Regina Shilubane, also filed a court challenge to stop the wedding, saying she was engaged to the then prime minister, with whom she said she had been romantically involved since 2009.
Wrote The Telegraph’s Peta Thornycroft in November 2012: “. . . it was confirmed that Mr Tsvangirai and Ms Karimatsenga had settled their dispute with a lump-sum payment, understood to be £150 000.
“The announcement has shocked Mr Tsvangirai’s aides, who say he has no income beyond his monthly salary of about £2 000 and no assets since he was an impoverished trade unionist before he entered politics 13 years ago.”
So, how could life be better in Rhodesia?
Tsvangirai has enjoyed the very high standard of living white people in Rhodesia had, and can empathise with them, but he should not fool himself into believing that he could have been a high-spending prime minister under white minority rule.
He should teach the truth to MDC-T youth – it is only under black majority rule that they can have more!
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