Perspectives

An African Gold Standard: A Lasting Legacy of President Mugabe?

By Cedric Muhammad -Guest Columnist- | Last updated: Jul 25, 2013 - 9:41:47 AM

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“Do you not see and hear how your people of Africa from whom you were taken 400 years ago are separating themselves from the same enemy and establishing themselves into a united Africa for the African?  Do you think the spirit of unity was created by themselves?” 
—The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, May 1959, ‘Mr. Muhammad Speaks,’ Pittsburgh Courier

“Or say they: A poet — we wait for him the evil accidents of time.”
—Surah 52 verse 30, Holy Qur’an

***

In February 2010, in deepening my thinking about the economic integration of Africa, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said to me, “Allah is called in the Qur’an, Rabb Al-Alamin – ‘He Who creates a thing and nurtures a thing, making it attain stage after stage, until it reaches its eventual perfection.’  This process is going on right now in the human family.  There’s a move toward globalization.  Political realities are forcing countries that have been at odds with one another over their nationalistic aims to want to come together and form a political bloc, an economic bloc.  But still what is missing is the spiritual and it is that, that the Mahdi and the Masih—or the Christ and the Messiah—are to bring about at the end of Satan’s world of division.”

I thought of his words after learning of the uproar caused by President Robert Mugabe’s recently announced intention to re-establish the Zimbabwe dollar as the currency of his nation.  Since January 2009, Zimbabwe has been primarily utilizing the U.S. dollar and South African rand as its leading legal tender and medium of exchange. 

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The government dropped the Zimbabwe dollar as its national currency due to hyper-inflation so great it threatened to collapse the entire country.  At one point inflation reached an unbearable 80,000,000 percent per month with an exchange rate of $1 equal to nearly 3,000,000,000 Zimbabwe dollars.

The decision appeared to be evidence of Zimbabwe’s surrender to dollar imperialism and proof that its experiment in Socialism was a failure, as the rate of inflation soon declined to a 3 percent annual rate of inflation, where it stands today.  Revolutionary supporters of President Mugabe criticized his apparent embrace of dollarization and although the decision returned currency stability it came with a resulting loss of national pride.  To this day President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African Union National Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) wrestles with the difficult decision it made.  Its newspaper, The Herald, explained in a July 16th article, “While Zanu-PF is clear that the collapse of the Zimdollar was a shameful development not worthy of celebration, its strategic replacement with the United States dollar as the leading legal tender to serve Zimbabwe in a basket of multi-currencies is in effect poetic justice given that the same U.S. dollar had been used to kill the Zimdollar by merchants of regime change in their vain hope of killing Zimbabwe.”

What President Mugabe and ZANU-PF have struggled with is the same challenge every liberation movement faces at a certain stage —how to balance the need for truth-telling regarding the impact of imperialism and colonialism while adequately meeting the basic needs and wants of its people through effective governance.  As every revolutionary movement grows, stage after stage, it understands that one responsibility is not a substitute for another.  The people need both truth and their daily bread and better yet a daily bread, rooted in truth.

In that sense, President Mugabe’s desire to re-establish a national currency makes lemonade out of a lemon in that it has opened the door for a move that could potentially improve the Zimbabwe economy (which cannot continue to rely upon a U.S. dollar weakened by the policies of the Federal Reserve) while evolving Africa toward another stage of independence.

In a detail many have missed, the intention to re-establish the Zimbabwe dollar is accompanied by a desire to back the currency with gold.  As Dr. Gideon Gono, Governor of the Zimbabwe Central Bank of Zimbabwe stated on July 11th, “ …the sustained stability of the re-introduced local currency will also be contingent upon the accumulation of adequate assets from the country’s resources, notably gold, to enable the currency to be fully gold-backed. This means that government would need to purchase from Gold Miners, adequate stocks of Gold in order to build its bullion reserves.”

In 2011, Dr. Gono asked me for the same advice I gave the African Union in 2009 in its efforts to establish a single currency.  Inspired by the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, I suggested that any African currency would have to be backed by gold if it was to be truly independent and with enough gold reserves to not be swayed by corruption in the daily fixing of the price of gold, a process dominated by the Federal Reserve and 5 major banks today— Barclays, Deutsche Bank, HSBC Holdings, Bank of Nova Scotia, and Societe Generale— as it has been since 1919 when 5 representatives of investment banks would meet each day in the London offices of the merchant bank NM Rothschild to tell the world the price of an ounce.

I shared with Dr. Gono my view that although the Zimbabwe economy is too small on its own to return to a gold standard, it could lead the way for the entire Southern Region of Africa to do so.  This is more true today with the decline of the South African economy, which has yet to reach a critical stage.

This would require Zimbabwe to place African unity above national pride—a stage of development few African governments have reached but one they will eventually be forced to— by circumstance and Spirit.  The spirit of African unity is greater than national pride and current timid approaches to nation-state development or political and economic integration.  It is generated by the very Spirit of God which also manifests in the longing of the people for a change in their condition, a desire which calls certain leaders into existence.  The Honorable Elijah Muhammad described this in Message To The Blackman, “...wherever there is a longing or demand for a change, nature will produce that man, who will bring it about.”  One of the clearest pictures of this can be read in Ezekiel 37—a picture of the Messiah bringing together a divided and scattered people into a homeland.  In the 1950s the Honorable Elijah Muhammad wrote that this chapter was not in any way referring to Israel or any of the Caucasian people.

The most powerful manifestation of African unity on the continent manifested in the birth of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and exemplified by the beautiful relationship between Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.  It manifested again in the ascent of Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi to the leadership of the African Union two decades ago.  Some thought it died when Brother Gadhafi was assassinated.  But if African unity grows out of a divine Spirit, the death of any vessel that carries that idea will not stop it.  Rather, it only makes it stronger – as the mistakes, errors and imperfections in the implementation of the idea and vision are corrected, stage after stage and as imposters, who out of vanity or a spirit of deception, unwittingly work out many of the kinks or technical aspects of the effort on behalf of better ones yet to come to the idea. 

That these leaders are imperfect also does not hinder the advance of the idea as Minister Farrakhan powerfully stated during the Million Man March, “There is no human being through whom God brings an idea that history doesn’t marry that idea with that human being, no matter what defect was in that human being’s character.”

In President Mugabe and Dr. Gono’s effort to move Zimbabwe to a gold standard, the effort may appear imperfect, nationalistic, political and economic in nature but ultimately it is only a part of a larger process that will one day live beyond the physical life of the 89-year old Mr. Mugabe.

Many have criticized President Mugabe for continuing to seek to lead Zimbabwe at such a relatively advanced age.  On some grounds many of these concerns are understandable – as many wonder, if by now, Brother Mugabe could not have produced a younger cadre of leadership capable of taking his mantle. 

However, if President Mugabe was put on his post by Allah (God) and is born out of the longing of the people for lasting change, he can only be properly relieved by the Force and Power which gave birth to him and the idea that he carries.

We would all do well to ­­­study President Mugabe and the outcome of the upcoming election in Zimbabwe in light of the principles articulated by Minister Farrakhan in his open letter to Col. Muammar Gadhafi, just 4 months before his death (http://goo.gl/GcA8o).

Cedric Muhammad is an Economist and a Member of The Nation of Islam’s Research Group. He is also CEO of Africa PreBrief – a firm advising U.S.-based investors in African economies and can be contacted via e-mail at cedric(at)cmcap.com

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