By Alex Bell
Riot police were on Thursday called out to control a crowd of angry bank clients in Bulawayo, with people still unable to access cash from their accounts.
Customers, who comprised mostly of just paid soldiers, had spent the morning queuing at the Metropolitan Bank building, trying to get money ahead of the Christmas period.
But things soon turned ugly, allegedly because there was no staff to help the crowd.
SW Radio Africa’s Bulawayo correspondent was outside the bank at the time and explained that the crowd grew more and more restless, and eventually a plate glass window at the front of the bank was smashed.
“There was no one attending to the huge crowd of customers, and they started shouting obscenities at the bank staff and getting really angry,” Saungweme explained.
After the window was broken riot police were dispatched to prevent any more disturbances.
This is the second time this week that the window at the entrance to the same bank was smashed by angry customers, who have been waiting days to withdraw their salaries.
On Monday customers, again mostly of soldiers, tried to access their money from the bank after being paid. But in the midst of a severe liquidity crisis and widespread cash shortage there was no money and they turned their anger on the bank and its staff.
“Today it seems there was some negligence on the part of the bank, because there was no staff despite the big queues. There was nobody inside the premises, so people were just left out there,” Saungweme said.
The bank has not yet responded to requests for comment.
Saungweme said that elsewhere in Bulawayo on Thursday similar incidents were unfolding, including at the FBC Building Society. A mob of customers stormed the building, breaking the electronic security door.
In recent weeks here have been reports of long queues and general discontent with banks not having the cash that its customers have desperately been trying to access.
On Monday in Harare, riot police were called in after a mob stormed the Allied Bank building in the capital and manhandled a bank manager.
The bank had to summon the riot police who dispersed the crowd by using tear gas. The attack on Allied Bank followed a similar incident at the Metropolitan Bank’s Mutare branch, which required police intervention to rescue workers. The manager there fled the office and sought refuge at the police station.
“What we are probably going to see is a worsening of the situation in the coming days, and this really doesn’t paint a good picture about Zimbabwe,” Saungweme said. SW Radio Africa