ON June 24, through Statutory Instrument 142 of 2019, government boldly declared “the Zimbabwe dollar… the sole legal tender in Zimbabwe in all transactions”. But worryingly, and curiously, the same government has been giving special dispensation for certain sectors allowing them to trade in foreign currency.
First it was the mining sector which was allowed to deal with power utility Zesa Holdings in foreign currency. Airlines were also allowed to charge tickets in foreign currency. And now it is the resort town of Victoria Falls which has been given special dispensation to charge its clients in foreign currency, specifically the greenback, in order for businesses in the prime tourist town to have unfettered supply of power.
But we wish, from the onset, to raise the red flag over this segregation and downright discrimination that government has chosen to embark on. The mines, airlines and Victoria Falls are not islands, but part of an intricate integrated system.
Supporting the move to allow Victoria Falls to trade in foreign currency, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe president Innocent Manyera said: “The sector has potential, but without reliable sources of power all will be fruitless. We need power for lighting, kitchen production, laundry and pumping water, among other things. So without it operations have been difficult. It will be an advantage if Victoria Falls, as a town is rest assured of electricity and rest assured of charging in forex.”
What worries us is the fact that Manyera and the government seem to have forgotten that tourism in the country is not only Victoria Falls. What about Kariba? What about the Eastern Highlands? What about Hwange National Park? What about the Chinhoyi Caves? What about Gonarezhou and all the conservancies that have been racking in millions in foreign currency? What about hotels in Harare and Bulawayo and other towns? Do all these equally marvellous tourist destinations not also deserve to be allowed to charge in foreign currency?
Government’s outright discrimination and glaring shilly-shallying will only serve to threaten the Zimdollar’s sustainability. It will not be surprising if many other sectors, including citizens, start to also demand to use foreign currency.
For instance, how is the ordinary citizen supposed to afford visiting Victoria Falls if they have no access to any form of foreign currency? Is the resort town now only for foreigners or they will be charged exorbitantly using the interbank rate?
We urge government to rethink this policy because it will do very little to sustain the Zimdollar in the long haul.