Of Coffee And Running On Empty

If you were having coffee with me I would ask you if you read today’s paper? I haven’t read it but I can guess what it says and its nothing good. I long decided that if the universe wants me to know something it will eventually get to me…..

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So whats been happening in my neck of the woods?…. Lets see, our free falling economy is in a downward spiral which sounds like a fun ride at the amusement except this isn’t the amusement park and its not fun…

If you were having coffee with me I would tell you that the governor of the reserve bank and the new minister of finance released a couple of policy reforms which have started a fire they are busy trying to put out.

One of those being that banks should keep separate accounts for their clients one to reflect Foreign Currency balance and the other for our pseudo-currency, effectively making it “official” that the bond currency is no longer equal in value to the United States Dollar. Also this means that somewhere along the lines money’s value got eroded or stolen or something. For a catch-up on the bond currency you can read this post from last year here: OF BOND AGE

The other reform was to increase tax on all electronic transactions from 5 cents a transaction to 2 cents on every dollar transacted, which translates to a 2% tax (not including bank charges). Because of the cash crisis, Zimbabwe has become a cashless society not by choice but out of necessity and the government saw the volumes  of money transacted and decided to  expand its tax base, because its running on empty I presume. How do governments make money anyway?

If you were having coffee with me I would tell you that the prices of things are going up and basic goods disappearing from shops, even medication is going up while there seems to be a fuel crisis but of course the government blames Social Media for causing the panic buying that’s resulting in the shortages and that there’s no fuel crisis.

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Oh and a few days later they tried to “clarify’ the 2% tax, and include exemptions

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looks to me like they are just winging it but what do I know? All I see is prices are going up, goods are being limited in some shops, medication getting hard to find in pharmacies and some no longer accepting medical aid and the fuel queues I witnessed during the weekend show we are running on fumes but of course don’t panic, well that’s what the government is saying I don’t know when we really should panic or at least down right admit we are somewhere at the bottom tier of a meltdown….

Empty

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Fuel Queue

Fuel Queue

If you were having coffee with me, I would tell you that people should start paying more attention to social media, it might have started as an online fad but it has become a powerful tool that can make or break a country, an economy or even a person. Its not just social media………

Jacaranda

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If you were having coffee with me  would tell you that its summer and the Jacaranda lined streets are ablaze in their purple glory, walking on a carpet of their purple mess beneath my feet and the purple canopy above my head its almost easy to forget all my problems. They remind me of a time way back when I was still in school that when you saw the Jacaranda trees blooming you would know that its exam season!!!!!! I always thought that Jacaranda trees were indigenous to us or rather its something I never thought about not until I read this post by Miss Chiseche.

The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you will never expect to sit your lifetime

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~B

 

PhotoCredit: Jacaranda Bloom @LeeGraphyMedia

Bread rationing Wiliam du Plooy

 

 

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Of Bond Age

Welcome to the Bond-Age…. You are supposed to read that as Bond Era, like the year of the Bond, and no, its not a new instalment in the James Bond movie franchise but one ought to be forgiven for thinking bondage and not of the kinky kind…

We have survived this long after the introduction of the Bond Notes surrogate currency, late last year, longer than some pessimists had pegged till collapse of our economy. Bond Notes are a surrogate currency, trading at a rate of 1:1 with the United States Dollar, introduced into the system to help ease the cash crisis. According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe they are backed by a $200 million dollar facility by the African Export-Import (Afrexim) Bank, and to date $102 million worth of bond notes are in circulation.

(confession: I really have no idea what exactly that means if it is a loan or something else and its terms, I worry a little because this is how countries get economically colonised  I’ve read The Confession Of  An Economic Hitman had I heard of said bank before this… and I had never heard of the Afrexim bank before all this; well Google says it is a real financial institution  but I wouldn’t put it past responsible authorities to take creative liberties with the truth and claim to have financial backing so as to instil confidence in their surrogate currency )

The release of the Bond Notes was shrouded in quite the mist of mystery and vaguely phrased terminology like a stimulus package for Export Incentives and Cash Shortage alleviation and I remember a bank even got fined for breach of some confidentiality clause by circulating pictures of the bond notes prior to their release. Even the security features of the Bond Notes were only made public after the notes had been already introduced into the system.

An sms from the RBZ sent as part of their public awareness campaign:

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Who can even make sense of that?

Strangely enough though these notes were supposed to ease cash shortages trading at a value of 1:1 with the USD (easily making the Bond Currency the strongest currency in Africa) it seems to have worsened the crisis and bank queues are even longer than they used to be, and people struggle to withdraw the weekly banking limit, of their own money. The rumour mill has abuzz with talk of introduction of  even higher denominations of the Bond Currency which are currently trading in bond coins, $2 and $5 bond notes; although the Reserve Bank has gone on record to dispel this saying they won’t do so, as that could fuel inflation.

Plastic money, is the order of the day, but it’s still the standard operating procedure to first ask the cashier if the swipe Point of Sale machines are working and if they accept your particular bank, because some banks apparently don’t play with others, and local banks are suspending MasterCard and VISA transactions outside the country or placing limits on transactions.

How about doing RTGS …one would think that something called a Real Time Transfer should be instantaneous yet they take anything from 24hrs to 14 days, where does the money disappear to? Instead of just whizzing digitally from one account to another at the click of a button like magic? What if it disappears there and never comes back, what if maybe that’s how all the cash disappeared ??? You would think is a terrible time to invest in banking, but you would be wrong, banks are making a killing, your money in the bank doesn’t earn any interest and it will probably get eroded in transactional charges every time you swipe your card, or transfer money and other hidden costs, you might even get billed for enquiring your balance… and meanwhile some banks are making double digit million dollar profits…What a time to own a bank

If you figured you could runaway from the Bank Queues and try to make a withdrawal from some unscrupulous mobile money agents, you would find they charge a “commission” on top of the transaction fees and people desperate for their cash have no choice but to pay and that’s how it starts. Mobile Money Operators say such practices are illegal and should be reported, but desperation breeds strange bed fellows; once one person is willing to pay a premium for their cash then someone else will, and then another and another and soon chaos and the parallel market thrive….

Fuel supply is quite sporadic and one can’t just waltz or rather drive to a fuel service station without checking if they have fuel cause they just might not, and you ought not be surprised to find separate queues at the same service station, one for US Dollar fuel and another for Bond Currency fuel.

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Oh yeah, it also shouldn’t further surprise you to see that they are most likely to run out of Bond Currency fuel first too. They blame the Reserve Bank for not clearing their foreign currency payments to suppliers and in return the RBZ says it works on some priority list where not all foreign currency payments are equal; some payments are more important than others….

The RBZ FOREX Priority list

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Officially there is no parallel rate though in effect there is, by offering discounts for cash transactions as opposed to using plastic money which basically translates to cash being worth more. Unofficially there is a multi-tier pricing where there same product has a different pricing depending whether you are using plastic money, United States Dollars or Bond Currency. This is illegal and an RBZ amendment act was passed into effect  which will see perpetrators being jailed for “devaluing” the Bond Currency.

That’s some Bondage for you

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Of Queue Waiting: Suggestions

A reader made the following comment after reading my previous post Of Queue Waiting:

Comment  I don’t understand. If you have a number, and you know how much time it will take, then why not head back home? You could come, as you stated, two hours before the bank opens. Get the number. Then return to your home and chill out for a few hours and do whatever you want to. You can use your 3 and a half minute average to calculate how long you have till your number arrives. And according to that you can leave for the bank. That way you wouldn’t have to wait in a queue. 

… it seems such a simple solution doesn’t it….Confession: I have even wondered the same thing myself. Theoretically it’s ridiculously as easy as that …… For half a second you can’t help wonder why people waste so much time waiting around in queues… you could hold a position leave then come back but in practise such a system would fail mainly for one reason: The Human Condition. People are generally not the most honest of beings, and if you are not there in person to witness what’s going on, with your own beady little eyes; shenanigans will happen….

Even when you never leave the queue you for any significant amount of time you still notice people worming their way into a position in front of you from out of nowhere claiming they came way earlier than you did and got a position before you or “claim” that someone else was holding the queue position for them. (sometimes it’s true) It doesn’t help that some enterprising individuals see a business opportunity in selling premium queue positions.

It’s like stealing candy from a baby, not that am giving anyone any ideas but if one were inclined to make a quick buck, all you need is a pen some paper and maybe a scissors

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You get to the bank very early before anyone else does….

On the pretence of wanting to maintain “order” in the queue; you start handing out your list of numbered little papers corresponding to queue positions but here is the trick; you keep some numbers for yourself so it means that the actual positions in the queue are vacant… When people start queuing in earnest; when the bank is open and the ATM is dispensing cash, you then approach potential “clients”.

It’s easy to spot someone in a rush, desperate to get their cash, milling around at the back of the queue looking longingly at people at the front, and in their hand a lil paper that’s showing a triple digit number and little chance of their getting cash that day. Or the executive type who drive up to the bank in their vehicles and wind down their power windows and ask “zvakamira sei nhasi?” which translates to anything from “Whats up?” to “Any chances of getting cash today and what’s the withdrawal limit today?”

Those are the ones willing to pay to get a position in the queue… You spot your mark and say “Good day to you, pardon me for intruding I can see you value your time, I am selling a spot in the queue I can even organise that you get in the top 10 but those one cost you extra…” If you are of unscrupulous disposition, you can even sell the same position more than once (after all you made the numbered lil pieces of paper you could make duplicate numbers)…. Easy as pie.

And if all this is happening right beneath your nose imagine what would happen if you were to leave the queue for too long….. Not forgetting that unforeseeable circumstances might mess up your calculations anything could happen while you are away, you could come back and find that the whole queue has changed you don’t recognise anyone you see and that might be because the people you were with gave up or went to a different bank and new people showed up… what do you do.. what do you do…? Oh yeah and the bank just might run out of cash while you are away…..

The longer you spend outside of the queue the harder it is to get back to your position especially as you get closer, to the ATM people tend to become aggressive in allowing people to in front of you and they will eye you suspiciously when you say I was in front of you, especially if they sweated all day in line and never left it for a second and you expect just to waltz in ahead to the front of the queue goodluck with that…

Maybe just maybe if the banks took a more proactive role in the maintenance of order in the queues cause it seems they have a morbid fascination in having people just queuing up outside, as if they have no better place to be, and that’s also it, where can you go when you have no money going home and coming back is an unnecessary expense, so you wait…  It’s also a convenient excuse for anything, “yeah sorry about that…{insert anything from being late to not showing up for an appointment or work or school or even forgetting to buy flowers for that special someone’s birthday] I was at The Bank the whole day you see…” It could even be an alibi for how to get away with murder…I was at the bank the whole day…

If banks wanted am sure they can even tell you the exact number of people they can serve before cash runs out so you don’t have to just wait and hope… It’s fascinating I have been reading in our local financial papers how banks have made massive net profits in the region of million dollar figures. If they wanted, they could afford it, to make a wait in the queue such a pleasant affair, ice cold refreshments, chairs, benches, entertainment, free WiFi while you wait…

How about even making a system like those pizza places where you get a timed buzzer when you place your order and it a buzzes when you order is ready, or better yet use a system like at the doctor’s. Where you make an appointment you know exactly the time to the minute when you will get your money. How about a Queue Buddy mobile banking app that lets you track your position in the queue giving you real time update as to how long you have till it’s your turn to get served… The bank could even send you an sms remainder or call you to confirm if you are still coming to make sure the system runs smoothly and you never have to wait in a queue with longer than five people (That’s 15 minutes at the bank tops…)

Anyone with any suggestions on innovative banking solutions please do share….. maybe we could start our own bank and make million dollar profits too………….

 

Of Queue Waiting

…..Greetings from QueueWait,  I have spend so much time waiting in this here bank queue, one might think I went on vacation to  QueueWait….

I usually somehow manage to survive without setting foot in a bank or bank queue, resorting to plastic money in all its expensive charges glory…. Its not that I have lots of money to spend or anything but its just more convenient than spending a whole day in a bank queue… The struggle is real….

The cash crisis situation seems to have taken a turn for the worse and as a result I have been forced to wake up at the crack of dawn to forage for cash at the bank……

I arrived at the bank at what I thought was a decent hour, two hours before official bank opening time, figuring not many people would be there, boy was I wrong….. the were already 57 people in front of me and I am the 58th. I even have a number that says so…

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A handy system that helps curb the scourge of queue jumpers, nobody likes a queue jumper; we all have places we would rather be, than here, now, waiting for money, our money not handouts or charity but our blood sweat and tears… where did all the cash go again?

 

It is weird standing in a neat queue long before The Bank is due to open and it is not even waiting in line to get into the bank, its waiting for them to put money in the automated teller machine, which they do after The Bank opens, which is after The Bank gets its consignment of money I guess from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, RBZ. So you wait patiently not even sure if The Bank will get its delivery of money and then hopefully you. You ask the people next to you how this particular branch operates, they tell you the money comes around 9.30am and then the ATMs start dispensing money an hour and a half after that. In hindsight  you realise maybe you should have had something to eat before coming to the bank, that’s what you get for thinking a bank run is a simple in and out and thank you for your time mission…..

You stare at yourself in those bank windows that are really one way mirrors, but at least you can wile away time checking out your posture starring at your reflection and reflecting…. its a good thing you took a bath and decided to dress decently because by the looks of things you wont get time to go back home and change for your meeting for later during the day…

You pass time by turning on your Wi-Fi and searching for any open Wi-Fi Hotspots, you might get lucky and find one too. Its something to do until your battery level goes critical, you should have charged your phone before you left the house, or brought a power bank….. Next Time remember that…..

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You start talking to your fellow queuesmen (hmmm a red squiggly line appeared on that word, not surprised considering I just made it up) There is always that one guy who is overly friendly who tries to engage everyone in conversation telling you how you must entertain yourselves otherwise you could just drop down dead of stress. Someone even makes a suggestion about how The Bank must take out the TVs in the banking halls and put them outside since people spend more time outside The Bank, than inside….

Shout out to that one guy whose idea of making small talk is asking inquisitive personal questions that no one feels like answering and most of the time ends up just having one sided conversations with anyone who dares make eye contact with….

After a while the stranger next to you becomes familiar like an old acquaintance and it pays to remember what they look, in case you have to leave the queue for a short recess to stretch your legs then you can come back and just say “I’m back” and squeeze back into your position without having to take out the piece of paper verifying what number you are in the queue… and just when you are thinking your number is far from the ATM, someone taps you on the shoulder and asks you what number you are… you tell them and ask why, and they say they are number 205 and looking for their position in the queue…. they are waaaaay to the back… Where did the cash go?

Finally the armoured truck delivers the day’s cash consignment for The Bank.. People cheer and generally get a little lighter spirited, money does that doesn’t it? This is when the Queue jumpers usually make their play, trying to persuade people that they were here earlier, even greets you with  the “hi! I am back“…. “But If you were here earlier then you have a number?”… “I lost it”…”Too bad!”… aint nobody got time for that

Some ladies are prepared for this; If you ever wondered what they carry in their those handbags, a change of “sensible” shoes from the heels and wrap fabrics to spread on the ground and sit. Its a good plan sitting because now you have been standing for close to three hours and your feet starting to ache. Queue

You think you are suffering, you are wrong, there is a pregnant lady who seems ready to pop, should she even be here in that condition? But what if she needs money for hospital, and the money is in the bank? Some hospitals only accept cash or take medical aid cards but with a cash co-payment….. where did the cash go?

Finally the security guard announces that the ATM service has now started and the limit per person is $300 which is also the weekly cash withdrawal limit, so if you get your $300 you don’t come to the bank till next week. The next part is the tricky part, the notes come out in $2 bond note denomination and the ATM cash slot tray can only dispense a maximum of  15 notes per transaction which is $60. So to withdraw your full $300 you have to do five $60 transactions. I am sure The Bank is quite happy with this arrangement as they get to bill you cash withdrawal charges five times……

The thing is with everyone withdrawing their weekly limit, it takes an average of 3 minutes and 30 seconds for one person to complete their business on the ATM. (I timed it)

I am number 58 which means I’ll be standing here 3hours 22 minutes and 8 seconds

There’s always the impatient person who complains real loud about everything and anything and how they have places to be and keeps threatening to just quit and go, but they never do, but they talk about it, a lot. While others just quietly disappear from the queue without telling a soul, they never come back…. but the queue moves ever forward, slowly…

….And then just when you get within a two people away from the ATM you are so close you can hear it beep as the person at the ATM punches in their transactions… you get told that it’s run out of money…..

How long does it take to refill an ATM with cash; approximately 1Hour 30 minutes judging from the time it took in the morning… how long does it take to realise that the bank has run out of money and no money will be dispensed by the ATM 2hours, at least that’s how long you wait for before deciding this is pointless and no one has come out of The Bank to tell you anything about anything ……

You just start walking home, because frankly you don’t have cash for the taxi… maybe if they accept a bank transfer ? Where did all the cash go??????

~B

wrote this post to pass time while standing in a Bank queue

 

Of Coffee, Catch up and Bond Notes

 

If you were having coffee with me I wold say it hey it has been awhile….

I like the vagueness of words referring to time …. Awhile, that could be a few seconds a, a few minutes, days, months or years even.

So it has been awhile have you missed me? I have most certainly missed you muchly… I missed my internet connection actually come to think of it, it’s not the internet that I missed

While I have been missing in action as it were, what have you been up to? Read any good books met any interesting people?

I just finished reading a book series called The Malazan Book of the fallen, which I must admit is the most epic not to mention longest most ambitious book project I ever read. I started reading it a year ago and have finally finished 3 million 325 thousand pages and ten books later. Its not the easiest book to read but it’s absolutely worth it, expect a review of it coming up soon.

If you were having coffee with me we would be trying out a recipe I got from a friend, mused by a stranger as it were…. Boil ginger then add coffee and honey,…. it has a secret this recipe, my friend said would only tell me after I include her in a story…..but she happened to pass the pyscho exam so am kind of just the tiny bit suspicious, if it’s not poisonous, she says it’s not but that’s what I would say too even if it was because… hello psycho…..

If you were having coffee with me I would ask you if you remember the time when I told you about how we were having these cash shortages in our country, well guess what the Reserve Bank has resolved it by introducing The New Bond Notes which should trade in value 1:1 with the United States dollar. It seems suspiciously like just printing your own paper and calling it money but we have survived the first week of the surrogate currency being drip fed into the economy and the government says banks are even running out of the new notes showing that they are being warmly received but the government also says lots of other things….. Once upon a  time I had a bank balance of a something close to a quintillion dollars (it’s a real number google it) I wasn’t really as rich as that sounds because it translated to $5 united states dollars and eventually vanished, along with most of other people’s savings …. So with a track record like that its kinda hard to have confidence in a government that feels like its performing a socio-economic experiment with us, I guess we wait and see what happens next….. wish us luck, so far it seems to be working. If you have used these notes how has your experience been?

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If you were having coffee with me I would tell you Code is Poetry, you know like programming code, well I don’t know much about code but I do know poetry and I am learning web page developing so watch this space……..

If you were having coffee with me I would hand you a slice of cake, it was my mum’s birthday today we had cake and laughter, she says she turned one because well there was only one candle on her cake… Happy birthday mum

Thank you for the visit its been great catching up….

~B

PS Oooh and they switched on the Christmas lights in Africa Unity Square Harare that’s how I know its Christmas season…….

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Of coffee over power walks and plastic money

 

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If you were having coffee with me…… we would first go on power walk..because a healthy body= healthy mind, yes I am #TeamFitness. Exercise is good for the mind, you could at least try thinking about it Ha! see what I did there.

If you are groaning about going on a power walk; aren’t you glad today I was not going jogging and then we would have to run until our hearts start pumping battery acid, then we run some more…. A great way to beat the cold since the sun is not being shy about refusing to be warm you see.

If you are having coffee with me we would be having this herbal concoction, Zumbani tea. I was recently introduced to it, the taste is interesting enough that I am sure it’s got to be good for something, I don’t know what though; a friend of mine says its best had without sugar…. Alas I have weakness for sweetness….

How is your weekend going?

So waking up to the news about Brexit, I guess that’s democracy for you the right to make good or spectacularly bad decisions. Something about casting votes makes people stop thinking till just after they are done, then suddenly it dawns that perhaps that was not the most informed decision…

I remember once upon a time we had a referendum to vote for a new constitution, the opposition party spearheaded the Vote No Campaign, saying it was some sort of ploy by the ruling party to stay in power and people voted without even having read the proposed amendments to the constitution, and they voted NO hip hip hurray; if those had been elections, the opposition party would have surely won….. Later, much later did people realise that had they voted yes life today would have been; oh so much different I don’t know about it being better (but those constitution amendments we the best things that could have happened to the country) and suddenly how people wished they had a chance to vote again they would say yes, but that ship sailed.

I guess it’s some sort of independence for the UK and  we celebrate our independence from the UK being a former British colony and all. Countries do love their sovereignty.

If you were having coffee with me (read that as herbal concoction) I would show you my array of bank cards I have enough to build a tiny tower of debit cards,

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and at any given time only one probably has a working bank balance, it’s because the country is experiencing a seriously crippling cash crisis situation, and in comes plastic money. The trick is to pick a bank (not likely to collapse anytime soon) with the lowest charges or the most number of point of sale terminals where you can swipe for your purchases (maybe get a cashback option if you are lucky) Some banks have better working relationships with retailers than others, there is nothing as annoying as standing in queue to buy your groceries only to find that they do not accept your  particular bank card.

IF you were having coffee with me I would tell you how I have accounts with several banks because this one bank has a special where on Fridays transactions on the debit card are free whoop whoop another has discounted charges when I use it at particular outlets and then this other one gives me loyalty points I have no idea what the loyalty points get you but hey it gotta be better than nothing right? I hunt for specials.

Why is there a cash crisis? Excellent question: like all excellent questions there is never a satisfactory answer for such, we have a cash crisis because banks do not have cash for withdrawals and they (banks) have no cash because businesses are not depositing money into banks and the business operators are not depositing money because  business is (s)low, business is (s)low because people have no money and people have no money because it is in the banks and they can’t get it out….wait what? Makes your head spin doesn’t it…

Plastic money it is then, on the upside the Reserve Bank in its great benevolence has mandated all banks to reduce their transactional charges on use of plastic money… yey!

I have a dream one that one day one just opens a bank account simply because they like the corporate colours and not because you have to make decisions about which bank has the minimum account handling charges and greater chances of not running out of cash (or worse suddenly closing taking your money with it) and is an interest on your money too much to ask for….

If you were having coffee with me I would ask you how your week has been, what’s good, what’s really good, what’s really really good?

If you were having coffee with me I would share with you this photo of a sculpture I saw in the street

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~B

PS they say wild animals roam the streets of Africa, well we call it art

This Is Africa #TIA