Bank queues back

A shortage of cash has hit many banks in Zimbabwe as the Christmas holiday approaches, despite assurances by the Bankers Association that all banks had enough money for the festive season.

Local reports said some banks had already run out of cash by Tuesday morning, causing fears that the cash shortages that used to cripple the country had returned.

According to the state run Herald newspaper, Bankers Association President John Mushayavanhu said: “The money we have is enough to cater for the festive season and there should be no fear at all.”

Mushayavanhu advised people to use ATMs to avoid the long bank queues. "The problem with this period is that most people want to go to banks at the same time and people do not want to use ATMs," he is quoted as saying.

The long queues were created by workers hoping to collect their Christmas bonuses and year-end salaries, which are crucial to many families this time of year.

Harare was not the only urban center hit by the cash shortages. Long bank queues were also reported in Bulawayo, Masvingo, Marondera and Chinhoyi. In some areas outside the capital banks waited for cash to be delivered from other branches.

Journalist Tendayi Ndhlovu, who visited several banks in Harare city centre on Wednesday, told SW Radio Africa there were “long, winding queues and chaos” at most locations as people tried to make withdrawals before the Unity Day celebrations on Thursday.

“Most depositors are trying to withdraw all their money fearing they may fail to do so come tomorrow at the ATMs. But they are being asked to withdraw half the amount of money in their accounts,” Ndhlovu explained.

He spoke to a pensioner from Ruwa who had been unable to access any money on Wednesday. Ndhlovu was unable to contact the Bankers Association President John Mushayavanhu for comment.

In Bulawayo, SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme reports that long queues extended into alleyways and through to other roads. But unlike Harare, there were no restrictions on the amount allowed for withdrawals.

“This particular situation was exacerbated by a power outage that hit Bulawayo for most of the afternoon,” Saungweme said. He added that some banks extended their hours, closed the doors and crowded people inside their banking halls.

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