According today’s Sunday Times planeloads of banknotes are flying into Harare almost every day to keep up with the demand of a nation with 100,000% inflation. Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) is receiving more than €500,000 (£382,000) a week for delivering bank notes at the rate of Z$170 trillion a week. The highest value 10m Zimbabwe dollar note worth just 20p. “The regime is surviving by printing money,” said Martin Rupiya, professor of war and security studies at the University of Zimbabwe. “At this stage there is no other way.”
According to a source at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, G&D delivers 432,000 sheets of banknotes every week to Fidelity printers in Harare, where they are stamped with the denomination. Each sheet contains 40 notes and the current production is entirely in Z$10m notes. Some of this money was used to award huge pay rises to the army in an apparent move to buy their loyalty ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections on March 29. Teachers belonging to a union supportive of the government were also given large sums. Soldiers received windfalls of between Z$1.2 billion for privates and Z$3 billion for officers, while teachers received Z$500m on average. Those belonging to the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, which criticises Mugabe, were excluded.
“G&D are literally bankrolling the regime,” said a Zimbabwean banker who could not be named for fear of reprisals. “These notes are being used to buy votes, to purchase foreign exchange to import electricity and vehicles to keep their regime going, and to fund the import of Chinese water cannons and police equipment to keep us intimidated. They are profiting from evil and should be named and shamed.”
G&D’s involvement is embarrassing for the German government which has been one of the most vocal supporters of EU sanctions against members of the Mugabe regime. Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken a tough stance on Zimbabwe, speaking out at the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon last December to insist that the world cannot stand by while “human rights are trampled underfoot”. A German foreign ministry spokesman said, however: “It’s their economic decision. According to current EU sanctions, the government does not have any legal basis to take action.”
G&D has been printing the country’s notes for several decades, and provided the same service to Mugabe’s predecessor Ian Smith.