African Giving Knowledge Base
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The Rosetta Stone, created in 196 BC during the Ptolemaic era under the reign of King Ptolemy V, is an archaeological gem for history buffs, documenting a decree in three ancient scripts: demotic, hieroglyphics, and ancient Greek. It is credited as the key to understanding the language of the ancient empire. But it was also key to their economics: the Stone was a virtual tax agreement granting mega exemptions to priests, military and other elites, and in the process, shifting the tax burden to the poor and the slaves. Operationalising poverty required governance: it would fall to the priests and other philanthropists to provide carefully managed 'relief' when things became unbearable. The purpose, of course, was maintaining the system rather than changing it.
This paper describes multifaceted crisis that befell Zimbabwe since 2000. The fieldwork from which this paper derives, in November to December 2006, was carried out in the context of the above, just after an exercise in currency renewal, where three zeros were removed, in a state suffering the excesses of state propaganda and fear. Some of the data is corrupted by this numeric confusion and fear induced unwillingness to respond to strangers' questions.
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