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Mthuli hails RBZ swift action on CBZ, Ecobank

By Africa Moyo

Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has praised the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for swiftly acting against two banks alleged to have allowed their depositors to make withdrawals above the stipulated limit.

Customers wait for cash at a CBZ branch in Harare (Picture by NewsDay)
Customers wait for cash at a CBZ branch in Harare (Picture by NewsDay)

CBZ Bank and Ecobank are in the eye of a storm after two of their depositors got $44 180 and $15 000, respectively, at a time when other depositors were being allowed a maximum of $100 per day.

The RBZ reported the two banks to the police on Thursday last week and the two institutions are reportedly assisting with investigations.

Responding to questions during a post-Budget breakfast meeting organised by Zimpapers and ZBC in Harare last Friday, Prof Ncube said it was important for RBZ to ensure such behaviour was nipped in the bud.

“In terms of the cash that you have seen floating in places where it should not be, clearly the Governor (of the RBZ Dr John Mangudya) has acted swiftly on the couple of banks whose staff were involved,” he said.

“So it was a strong message coming from the Reserve Bank.”

The RBZ has threatened to fine any banks caught on the wrong side of the law.

CBZ Bank on Friday sought to exonerate itself from any wrongdoing, saying its investigations regarding the $44 180 circulating on social media established that the transaction was “authorised”.

“The results confirm that a withdrawal of $1 and $0,25 bond coins took place at one of our branches. The withdrawal, by a corporate customer, in the gaming business, was an authorised transaction that fulfilled regulatory requirements,” said CBZ.

“The funds in the container were a display of a subsequent pay-out to a punter at the aforementioned corporate customer’s premises.”

There were indications last night that Ecobank would issue a statement on the matter.

Ecobank spokesperson Mr Tichaona Gandanhamo promised to call The Herald with an update, but had not done so by late last night.

ZRP national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi told The Herald yesterday that investigations were continuing.

“We are conducting joint investigations with the RBZ,” he said. “Once we feel that we have anything that we want to advise the public, we will communicate appropriately.”

Prof Ncube called on banks to reduce charges and also pay interest on bank balances.

“On bank charges, we also feel as Government that they are on the high side,” he said. “We will continue to engage them to bring down the charges.

“Instead, I will add my own comment which is around interest on deposits. We want a decent interest on domestic deposits, and a decent interest rate on FCAs (foreign currency accounts).”

Meanwhile, banks continued to dispense limited amounts of money to their clients, while some money changers continued to hold on to large sums of the new notes and coins, either obtained legally by accumulating through the informal sector or through questionable allocations by banks, report Charmaine Brown and Yeukai Tazira.

The money changers who were earlier last week happy to openly display the notes were now a bit cautious and had stashed the money in cars and were only showing it to clients who showed interest in transacting.

While some money changers were sitting on bundles of the new notes and coins, depositors had to stand for hours on end in long winding queues at most banks in the CBD as banks limited withdrawals to between $80 and $300 per person.

CABS and POSB were dispensing $80 on Friday, while CBZ and FBC were dispensing $100.

ZB Bank, Steward Bank, Stanbic Bank, Nedbank, Ecobank and Standard bank were disbursing $300, the maximum that an individual is allowed to withdraw per week.

Bank officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were having to limit the amount they were dispensing to ensure they served as many clients as possible.

Depositors who spoke to The Herald said they were delighted that they were able to access cash, although it was coming in small amounts.

Mr Anesu Mandeya, who arrived at his bank early in the morning, said he was happy that he managed to withdraw his money, although he had to queue for several hours.

“When I got here this (Friday) morning at around 5am there was already a very long queue and I did not expect to get any money because I was number 120,” he said.

“To my surprise, the queue was moving very fast and we all got our money before lunch.”

A security guard at one commercial bank, who did not want to be named, said the queues were longer than usual, but most customers were being served.

“The bank is giving out $80 per person and has been serving about 100 customers daily, but today more than 300 people managed to withdraw cash,” he said.

While some of the queues were orderly, there was chaos at other banks where some people were jumping the queues.

“We arrived at the bank around 5.30am and I was at number 86 but to my surprise some people who came after us and were behind us managed to withdraw money ahead of us because they connived with the security guards or bought numbers from people that were ahead of us,” said one of the depositors.

The RBZ recently announced that it would inject an extra $1 billion into the economy over the next six months to satisfy legitimate demand for cash.

The release of the new $2 and $5 banknotes and $2 coins started on Monday last week. The Herald