By Gift Phiri
In an unexpected development, Zimbabweans are stampeding to their banks in large numbers to withdraw the newly-introduced bond notes.
For the third day running yesterday, stressed banks battled to cope with the long queues that snaked inside and around their premises, as depositors continue to rush to withdraw the new currency which was introduced by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) on Monday.
A Daily News crew which took a walk around the Harare central business district witnessed throngs of customers struggling to access their money from both automated teller machines (ATMs) and inside banking halls, with the “improved availability of cash” in the system seemingly failing to stem the unusually high demand for money.
Many ATMs in the CBD were by early afternoon pasted with notices saying “out of cash”, raising temperatures in some areas as agitated depositors accused bank officials of not planning their operations well.
Long queues and chaos were also said to be the order of the day in Bulawayo and Mutare.
With the central bank announcing earlier this week that it had put a daily bond notes withdrawal cap of 50 units and 150 a week, many banks in the capital had run out of money by mid-day yesterday.
This was also despite the fact that most commercial banks continued to dispense to their customers the usual American dollar withdrawal limit of up to $60 a day, in addition to the allowed daily cap of $50 in bond notes.
Some of the depositors that the Daily News spoke to said they had started queuing for their money outside banks as early as 4am, with many more joining them from about 6:30am onwards.
An elderly woman who was in a queue said while she was happy that she was now able to access some of her money, authorities needed to inject more bond notes into the system to ameliorate the scramble for cash. Another senior citizen, Tinos Huruva, 67, said it was really difficult for people like him to stand in queues for hours.
The RBZ has released an initial $10 million worth of bond notes in small denominations of $2 and $5, more cash is to be gradually availed in the coming weeks and months.
On Wednesday, Bankers Association of Zimbabwe, Charity Jinya, said that the surrogate currency had been very well received.
“All banks have witnessed an encouraging uptake of bond notes since their introduction . . .,” she said.
“Banks have reiterated that they are committed to fully complying with all regulatory requirements and will continue to work closely with the central bank in providing solutions towards the ease-of-doing-business,” the MBCA Bank boss said.
Although authorities have introduced measures to migrate people to a cashless society, which includes increasing points of sale and lowering bank charges on all electronic transactions, some businesses and shops like fuel retailers have been reluctant to switch to plastic money, partly due to the extra cost involved.
This is premised on claims that merchants pay for card readers as well as commission to banks on every transaction made, with the charges involved depending on the card issuer and the trader’s credit rating and annual sales. Daily News