The last cosmos

11 06 2020

The last cosmos of the season

This is a cosmos flower, the last of the season. It’s not indigenous but apparently was introduced in contaminated horse feed from Argentina during the Anglo-Boer War. It can be found in the grasslands (veld) of the high rainfall areas of Zimbabwe from about March into April. This one is in our garden and is not the species found in the wild which is Cosmos bipinnatus. This came from a customer at the nursery who had some spare and they have been self-seeding in the garden for a couple of years. I have no idea why its popped up now, very late in the season, but here it is making a defiant last stand.

The Zimbabwe dollar is also making a last stand but it is looking anything but defiant. The official exchange rate for the local dollar to the US dollar, i.e. if one went to the bank to sell US dollars, is 25:1. You cannot buy US dollars at the bank probably because the black market rate is around 82:1 so nobody is stupid enough to sell their dollars at the official rate. The banks just haven’t got US dollars to sell.

Fuel is also sold at controlled prices in Zimbabwe dollars. The current price for petrol is $22 per litre which your cellphone calculator will tell you is about US27c a litre at black market rates – probably the cheapest in the world if you have access to US dollars. The government, which does most of the fuel procurement and allocation to the filling stations has no US dollars. Well, not for fuel at least so what fuel does make it to the the pump generates VERY long queues.

The government DOES have US dollars to buy the senior military figures new Land Cruisers at around US$80,000 each. Apparently they were becoming disgruntled with their forever diminishing salaries and needed pacifying lest they felt like changing the government for a more pliant one. This comes hot on the heels of the Finance Minister’s recent trip to the USA with the begging bowl in full view and he actually admitted that Zimbabwe’s fiscal policies were not well thought out (“mistakes have been made” he said). Quelle horreur! The begging bowl returned empty. Zimbabwe’s elite are nothing if not thick skinned so no sooner was the minister back than another appeal went out for money to help with the Covid-19 pandemic. That too was unsuccessful. Nobody can, or will, explain where the money for the vehicles is coming from. Those of us who have Foreign Currency Accounts (FCAs) at the banks which as the name suggests are in real money, mainly US dollars, are feeling a little nervous. The Mugabe regime raided these accounts on two occasions and gave the owners local dollars at the official rate (yes, this is the second time down the tubes for the local dollar).

FCAs are a perfectly legal mechanism for exporters to keep their income for importing new inputs. Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic is raging the government has allowed anyone to trade in US dollars both as cash and between FCAs. The local dollar is also still valid but most people are skewing local prices to make it attractive for people to use US dollars. Last Friday I was buying some irrigation fittings at a local outlet and they admitted that they were using a rate of 92 local dollars to the US dollar. The black market rate was indicated at 72:1. It’s now 82:1 and sliding on an almost daily rate.

The cosmos will almost certainly pop up in the garden next year. I’m not betting that the Zimbabwe dollar will still be around. As for the US dollar – that genie is now well out of the bottle.







8 responses

11 06 2020

The proverbial getting deeper at an alarming rate!!

12 06 2020

Yes, and the government is equally clueless.

16 06 2020
Ben Curtis

Hi Andy – Duncan has just introduced me to your Blog – very interesting read…
Also just read some of your memoirs – they take me back a bit.
In fact my dad who is now 96 (you may remember him from the Odzani sailing days) and is spending time in the what he calls the “departure lounge” of a Nursing home called Rose Cottage in Swindon would be very interested to hear your story. I hope I still get time to read him some of your stuff if this blasted COVID would allow me to…
As for myself, Michaela and I had the privilege of renewing our acquaintance with Duncan and Jane in their rather lovely home. Its been good to chat with Duncan again.
Wishing you all the best and looking forward to reading the rest of your memoirs – keep up the good writing
Take care
Ben Curtis

18 06 2020

Hi Ben, yes Duncan did say he’d met up with you. I do remember both you and your father from our sailing years. Amazed that he’s still going – 96 that’s a grand age!

11 07 2020

Zimbabwe: Nearly $3 million in health and IDA humanitarian assistance will help to prepare laboratories for large-scale testing, support case-finding activities for influenza-like illnesses, implement a public-health emergency plan for points of entry, and more. This new assistance builds on a history of U.S. investments in Zimbabwe – nearly $3 billion total over the past 20 years, nearly $1.2 billion in health assistance.

12 07 2020

More money to be diverted into private bank accounts!!

12 07 2020

That depends on tightly the money is controlled. Hopefully the donor is wise by now.

12 07 2020


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