Gold Miners

7 12 2006

The illegal camp of gold panners on the boundary was moved on the other day. I reported on this blog that they hadn’t all moved off and some had made an attempt at rebuilding their shacks. No more. The police moved in on Monday and set up their camp, a smartish looking military style tent. All the shacks and inhabitants thereof were moved off. It seems that the Reserve Bank was fed up with the gold panners selling their gold on the open market at whatever price they could get which you can bet would be at least eight times the official rate (the bank rate for buying US$ is ZW$250, the black market rate is ZW$3000). My foreman tells me that the police are camped throughout the Mazowe valley below my house to enforce the issue. Methinks that the Reserve Bank should concentrate on solving the US$300m diamond embezzlement reported last week instead of chasing petty “thieves”. Curiously, the bigger the scam the less likely it is to be solved.

The Zimbabwe government has a curious desire to cut off its head to spite the body. To wit: yesterday I was buying some calcium nitrate fertilizer (amongst others) that we use to raise the seedlings in my nursery business. It is wholly imported so the price is a direct conversion to local currency using the black market rate of the day. As I was in the process of updating my costings I asked the sales clerk for all the prices on the fertilizers and chemicals that we use. Ammonium nitrate was conspicuously absent. I asked why. Oh, we are not allowed to import that one he said. I think he meant that they were not going to import a fertilizer on which the sale price is dictated by government as being sub-economic. A surprisingly large number of products have their prices set in this manner, especially those considered to be essential. Ammonium nitrate is used extensively in the growing of the maize staple crop so comes under the “essential” heading. Not surprisingly therefore, it is extremely difficult to find at the official price though it can magically appear if one indicates willingness to pay a premium. So, it seems that it is better to have no ammonium nitrate available at the official price than to have some available at any price (at least where the peasant population is concerned).



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