MORGAN Tsvangirai on Thursday urged Zimbabweans to reject bond notes, the soon-to-be-introduced local version of the US dollar, warning that the country would “return again to the empty shops” of 2008. In a short video clip posted to social media platforms, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change said: “We have all walked that road before.”
Directly contradicting the central bank governor who said that the new bank notes were merely meant to encourage exports, Tsvangirai said that President Robert Mugabe’s government would “abuse” civil servants by paying them in the new form of cash.
“All patriotic Zimbabweans must reject this,” Tsvangirai said. “These bond notes are an attempt to rig the economy.”
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe chief John Mangudya has been working hard trying to allay the panic caused by his announcement last week at the height of biting cash shortages.
While the authorities blame the current crunch on locals allegedly sending US dollars out of the country (and outsiders coming in to mop up hard cash), a former finance minister this week said that overspending by Mugabe’s government had played a part too.
Fresh signs of economic distress
Simba Makoni, who served in Mugabe’s cabinet from 2000-2002, said on Twitter that Mangudya had failed to include “high government spending beyond government revenues, & much outside budget” in the causes he gave for the cash crunch.
“First step is telling it as it is,” Makoni tweeted, calling Mangudya’s diagnosis of the reasons behind the shortage of cash in banks “incomplete”.
Zimbabwe formally abandoned its local dollar in early 2009 after several years of food, fuel and power shortages and rampant hyperinflation.
On Thursday, there were fresh signs of economic distress as government pensioners queued at banks to access their payments.
NMB Bank, a prominent local institution, warned that its Visa cards were (for the time being at least) not usable outside the country.
“Clients intending to travel to destinations outside the country are therefore advised to make alternative arrangements for their transactional needs,” NMB said.
But that may be a problem as travellers are only allowed to take a maximum of $1 000 out of Zimbabwe.
There were also claims that the rand – spurned by many Zimbabwean traders – was being bought at 20:1 US on the streets of the capital Harare.