Currency reform circus

BULAWAYO, (Zimbabwe)- MR Daniel Mpofu,  a relatively wealthy rural man who
stays in Lupane, sent for his son-in-law to come to his rural home and
collect some cash for banking.


Being a rural man who did not find joy in making endless trips into town, he
never bothered to open a bank account but was keeping large sums of money at
home, most of it in Z$200 000 bearer cheques, which the governor of the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Dr Gideon Gono had announced were being phased out.He did not have immediate plans on which to use the money earned through
cattle sales in the last few weeks and so now he needed to bank the money or
risk losing a large chunk of it. Shops in most areas, especially in remote ones, are still struggling to restock after a government ordered price slash earlier in the year crippled
businesses across the country.Compounding the situation is the fact that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe officials sent out to change the currency in rural areas have not managed to cover all areas, and in some cases they are moving too fast for villagers,
who are left out of the exercise due to lack of information.”It was one of those humbling moments – in fact scary – when my father-in-law set down with me to ask for my help. He gave me Z$1,2 billion in Z$200 000 notes. I’ve been battling to deposit it in the Z$50 million daily tranches required by the reserve bank. I’ve had to give some of it to
my wife to deposit into her account,” says Mpofu, who has since bought
several small items to reduce the chances of losing the rest of the money
before the deposit deadline expires.This is just one of many stories illustrating the effects of the circus that the currency reforms in Zimbabwe, which started in 2003, have brought about.Zimbabweans based in neighbouring countries returning for the festive season also fell to the tricks of money-changers, popularly known as Osiphatheleni,

who have invaded border posts.They have been offering them “good rates” in exchange for the Z$200 000, which some of them didn’t know were being phased out.Themba Sibanda, a commuter omnibus driver, who plies the city-Luveve route in Bulawayo, said it was going to be difficult for him to bank his income on the last few days of the lifespan of the bearer cheques.”Banking money has become such a hassle in Zimbabwe anyway. Interest is now negligible, if any. Actually we get charged for banking our money. The bank charges are just too high. So tell me why I should do any banking?”It’s even worse these days of cash shortages because at times the banks will just tell you that there is no cash when you want to make a withdrawal, like what happened to me yesterday,” said Sibanda.Most people in the informal sector do not have business accounts with commercial banks or deliberately operate out of the banking system to evade the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority tax net.Those who have business accounts seem to maintain them for the sole purpose of clearing the odd cheque received once in a while.

Inflation continues to soar
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