Harare – Zimbabweans, seeking an escape from the current liquidity crunch, are looking for cash everywhere and they are trying every trick in the book to get an extra greenback in their wallets and pockets.
This comes as queues inside banking halls and at cash machines have started to get longer, as almost all banks in the country have cut down limits.
Standard Chartered, Stanbic and other banks in Zimbabwe have been giving only about $100 per day for depositors wishing to withdraw money.
“I am getting my money but it is taking longer; it is a hustle having to wait in cash lines for long but I just have to get all my money out by the time the bond notes come,” an elderly man says as he awaits his turn to withdraw money from a cash machine on Saturday.
At a Pick n Pay supermarket in central Harare, a smartly dressed young lady in her early 20s moves from one till to the next. She smiles beautifully at shoppers and greets them before kindly asking: “Are you using cash to buy your groceries, Sir/Madam?”
The deal is to get notes from those buying groceries with hard cash and she uses one of the many credit and debit cards she has to swipe and settle the bill on behalf of shoppers.
She is not alone in this hunt for cash, with others going the extra mile by requesting cash back from their accounts after purchasing goods in shops using a debit card.
“Cash is hard to come by and at the banks you spend lengthy hours but get nothing really. The limits at $100 per day are not helping matters, but here I can hustle and get some money that I can’t take out from my accounts at the bank,” said Sheila Mabasa, as she moves to another shopper.
Zimbabwe’s central bank is urging the use of plastic money and mobile money to ease the cash crunch, but the situation is worsening.
The looming introduction of local bond notes, now slated for next month, has agitated those with money in bank accounts as they fear the money will be converted into the local currency.
Even the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) has cautioned that the future introduction of bond notes is causing grreat uncertainty in the economy.
Fuel companies – among them Total Zimbabwe and Puma – have also reportedly been experiencing declining reserves owing to the cash crunch which has seen outbound remittances for supplies take longer.
Serious breach of confidence
“The imminent advent of the bond notes has brought some uncertainty into the economy, and this is exacerbating the existing liquidity challenges because everyone wants to keep their US dollar cash. There is a serious confidence issue on this matter,” Zimra chair Willia Bonyongwe said recently.
The government is now reportedly readying a law to back the introduction of the bond notes, after being challenged in court last month. The Zimbabwean courts ruled that the bond notes can only be challenged once they come into circulation, saying the court case was premature.
Government officials insist the bond notes are coming and that they will be introduced as an incentive for exporters. But on the streets, ordinary people are sceptical and the rush is on for cash hunters.
At a Puma filling station along 7th Street in Harare, young men rush to every car where they exchange their fuel coupons for cash. Second-hand vehicle dealers are asking those buying cars to put an incentive for the acceptance of settlement of payment through bank transfers.
Companies have also complained that the cash crunch is causing delays. Economists warned on Monday that the situation could get worse, leading to operations grinding down