Zimbabwe to drop 10 zeros from currency

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe announced Wednesday that it is knocking 10 zeros off its hyperinflated currency – a move that turns 10 billion dollars into one.

President Robert Mugabe threatened a state of emergency if businesses profiteer from the country’s economic crisis, a move that could give him even more sweeping powers to punish opponents in the event that political power-sharing talks fail.

“Entrepreneurs across the board, don’t drive us further,” Mugabe warned in a nationally televised address after the currency announcement. “If you drive us even more, we will impose emergency measures. … They can be tough rules.”

But in a glimmer of possible rapprochement in Zimbabwe’s political turmoil, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai revealed that he met with Mugabe last week for the first time in years and discussed the “pitfalls in any future government” that might emerge from the negotiations.

He didn’t indicate their meeting produced any agreement, however.

In a conciliatory gesture, Tsvangirai told Britain’s Channel 4 that his longtime rival is as “human as everyone else.” However, he added the president is “in denial” about the economic problems and political violence that have swept this once prosperous southern African nation.

Central Bank Gov. Gideon Gono announced he was dropping 10 zeros from Zimbabwe’s currency, effective Friday. The move comes a week after the issue of a 100 billion-dollar note – still not enough to buy a loaf of bread.

Gono acted because the high rate of inflation was hampering the country’s computer systems. Computers, electronic calculators and automated teller machines at Zimbabwe’s banks cannot handle basic transactions in billions and trillions of dollars.

Economist John Robertson said the new bills would soon be worthless. What costs $1 at the beginning of the month can cost $20 by month’s end, he said.

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