Black market rate of the Zimbabwe Dollar.

Black market rate of the Zimbabwe Dollar.

- The black market rate of Zimbabwe's battered dollar has fallen by up to 20 percent as jitters mount ahead of general election results, traders said yesterday.

The Zimbabwean dollar fetched a retail price ranging between 50 million and 60 million against the US dollar on the unofficial street market versus around 25 million to 30 million two weeks ago, dealers said. That is about 1000 times weaker than an official rate of 30,000 against the US unit.

Uncertainty has mounted over the past few days over Zimbabwe’s future, said one private foreign currency dealer. There has been a question of whether President Robert Mugabe will go quietly if he lost the election.

The currency squeeze is already bad, and the last thing it required was these additional pressures.

The informal market – which thrives despite a ban by the central bank and Treasury – is conducted by street-corner foreign currency dealers.

A severe shortage of hard currency in the once-prosperous southern African country means the official rate largely applies to government imports and large corporates as retailers routinely find no dollars to purchase from commercial banks.

No figures for the size of the illegal market are available, but it is the only source of currency for individuals preparing to travel and small retailers seeking cash for imports.

Poll jitters meant traders were snapping up all the dollars that came their way as they attempted to stockpile in a market where dollars are too scarce for such activity, a banker said.

Dealers said there were very little inflows of foreign exchange because many corporates remained closed for the polls.

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