The Sunday Mail
Most honest Zimbabweans living abroad particularly those in Western capitals always recount stories of how they have over the years struggled to fit in their new environs.
From aping some little appropriate mannerism to a suitable accent — the struggle is real for full blown adults vainly trying hard to appear and be regarded as someone close to being a “native.”
It can surely be emotionally draining to daily encounter curious snaring stares, regular questions of “where you from?” and “I don’t understand what you saying”.
For some, living abroad can be a nightmare. There is always a danger of people’s sense of well-being permanently being emasculated to a point of self-hate. Any allusions or reference to what defines them as Africans and Zimbabweans is despised.
Caribbean author, Nigel Thomas who was born on St Vincent island and migrated to Canada 18 years ago and is now a Professor in United States Literature at Universite Laval in Quebec City traces the origins of the self-hate culture prevalent in the Diaspora to colonialism and slavery when he says: “Africa in the Caribbean in which I grew up symbolised savagery. The word Zulu in my village had the same virulent as cannibal. Clearly, if we despised Africa and Africans (then) we hated ourselves.”
Just like Nigel Thomas, Joan Erakit from Uganda narrates how she underwent some kind of self-exorcism to regain her Africaness.
In a piece published by OkayAfrica.com titled “An African in Need: How I learned to Stop the Self-hate and Love my Africaness” on July 21, 2017, Erakit recounts her struggle of trying to assimilate in her new community in the United States and how at school she hated everything about herself.
“I hated being an African. I hated that my parents had an “accent.” I hated that everyone in Minnesota knew that we had come from Africa and that in class, they would chant “Coming to America!” every time I walked by referencing the Eddie Murphy film,” Erakit says.
It only needed the coming into her class of a Nigerian girl who was unashamedly proud of speaking in her own unique accent; who dressed in the manner she so wished, who animatedly spoke to her mother in her native language, for Erakit to realise the beauty of being herself.
The malady that afflicted Erakit and Thomas- our Caribbean brother, seems to have embedded itself in our local brothers and sisters in the opposition who are in serious need of exorcism.
Their attitude towards the introduction of the Zimbabwean dollar needs a proper dissertation. It is hoped that somewhere along the way, they need to recover from thinking that anything initiated by a fellow African is not good enough.
The predisposition is that we are too weak to chart our own way. We are too weak to challenge the prevailing dominant narratives about us. We have a large chunk of our society being hostage to mental enslavement. Opinions that differ from those viewed as the paragon of virtue are debased.
The economic debate aside, 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 unity, there is no peace and without peace, there cannot be any development.
The truth is we can’t be a nation without national badges of identity. This is not hollow nationalistic zeal but something that binds us together beyond ethnic backgrounds. Symbols like flags, languages, anthems and Coats-of-Arms are national badges of identity. All these are crucial in that beyond political differences, we feel a sense if affinity towards one another, a sense of belonging derived from our shared history and experiences.
Our national identity as a nation is incomplete without our national currency. Some would want us to live in perpetual psychological misery that everything about us is worthless.
The late prominent Zimbabwean author, Chenjerai Hove, once said a national currency is a citizens’ pride and that it is part of the arithmetic of our lives when we are born and learn to count.
Hove’s reasoning was that a “national currency carries our national identity and dignity,” and that a currency crisis is also a crisis of individual and national identity, fracturing the national ego with disastrous consequences.
Beyond the aesthetics of national identity and national cohesion, very few doubt that it had become prudent for Zimbabwe to review the optimum future currency regime given the fact that the multi-currency system was posing a number of challenges.
Although it was initially intended that the rand would be the reference currency, the US dollar soon became the dominant currency for both accounting records and transactions.
Granted that the multi-currency regime brought hyperinflation down, helped stabilise the economy and establish the conditions for the restoration of positive economic growth.
However, the multi-currency system has always been a temporary arrangement, which was supposed to run until around 2012.
No one doubts that the multi-currency regime has reached its threshold given the challenges that are now being faced by government at operational level.
Some of these challenges include the loss of seigniorage income that a central bank normally derives from its ability to issue currency. In a dollarised environment, seigniorage gains accrue to the central bank of the currency (or currencies) that are in use.
A research paper authored by Keith Jefferis, Gibson Chigumira and Erinah Chipumho titled “A review of Zimbabwe’s optimum future currency regime” (2013), is arguably one of the best documents to comprehensively analyse 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, given that monetary policy is a key instrument of macroeconomic management, the constraints imposed by the multi-currency regime on the country specific objectives maybe viewed as a hindrance to achieving country specific goals.
I am not an economist but it would crucial for those who are opposed to the introduction of our national currency to appraise themselves with what economists call the “lender of last resort” facility.
A multi-currency regime inhibits the central back from being the lender of last resort in providing the much needed liquidity to banks in distress and further prevents the Reserve Bank from responding decisively in times of crisis.
The time is now for Zimbabweans to embrace who they are and stop the negativity. We need to work towards dealing with the self-hate.
The introduction of a local currency goes beyond economics. It defines who we are as a nation-state.