Sunday News Reporters
BOND notes are reportedly being shipped out of the country by unscrupulous currency dealers conducting their business across the country’s borders.
The dealers are exchanging them for foreign currency especially to travellers coming into Zimbabwe. Bond notes were introduced last year and were meant to plug leakages of foreign currency as they can only be used as legal tender in the country.
However, as the bond notes were easily accepted and trading at par with the United States dollar, the currency dealers have taken advantage of this to ship the notes out of the country’s borders, where they exchange with regional currencies to people travelling to Zimbabwe.
The situation has been compounded by the general shortage of the US dollar locally forcing those travelling to Zimbabwe to opt for bond notes as they can be used in the country in the same way the US dollar is being treated. This has created high demand for money as local bank customers need the notes which are now being shipped out of the country.
The development has also created a situation where even those in possession of regional currencies such as the rand opt for the bond notes since their currencies are not widely used in Zimbabwe although they are part of the multi-currency basket.
The situation has resulted in the shortage of the notes, despite the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe indicating that there were $140 million worth of bond notes and $20 million worth of coins that have been released into the market. The cash shortages have seen some banks cut withdrawal limits to as low as $30 per day, with some banks disbursing coins. Withdrawal limits stipulated by the RBZ are $100 per day and $300 per week.
Our correspondents in Beitbridge, Plumtree and Victoria Falls gathered that that currency dealers who operate in areas and cities located after the neighbouring countries’ borders, were seen with wades of the bond notes. The money changers are mopping out the foreign currency that is supposed to get into Zimbabwe by luring travellers to change their money into bond notes before getting into Zimbabwe. Some of the money changers interviewed at Ramokgwebana Border Post in Botswana said business was brisk because people know that Zimbabwe was “facing money challenges” and would rather cross into the country after securing the bond notes.
“They will rather change their money here and that is why we try by all means to get the bond notes to conduct business. Shop owners and other people are now coming with the notes and we give them pulas. In addition we are also making sure our people in Zimbabwe keep on supplying the notes so that we are in business,” said a money changer who declined to be named.
The money changers interviewed by our correspondents on the South African side of the Beitbridge Border Post and Victoria Falls Border Post in Zambia were singing the same hymn. This comes amid reports that bond notes were also being sold in exchange for US dollars in Manga, a town near Beira in Mozambique.
RBZ governor Dr John Mangudya yesterday confirmed that the notes were now being taken out of the country blaming indiscipline and the lack of confidence in the local banking system.
“There is a lot of indiscipline in this economy. There is a thin line between indiscipline and lack of confidence. People should learn to bank their money and no one should trade in foreign currency if they are not registered,” said Dr Mangudya.
He said they have also discovered that money changers were being supported by unscrupulous traders and individuals who have a strong appetite of rent seeking behaviour and externalisation.
“The Bank in close co-operation with the police and Zimra has stepped up operations to deal with that malpractice. It is such indiscipline that have crept into our society that needs to be addressed to enhance the efficient circulation of money in the economy. It is against this background which has necessitated the Bank to establish a hotline or whistle blower facility as a national approach to enhance compliance with the rule of law. These measures, which include the enforcement of the Bank Use Promotion Policy, have begun to bear fruit.”
Dr Mangudya said Zimbabweans who love their country should report such cases.
“As a country we need self check mechanism, because it is our money that is being abused,” he said.
Dr Mangudya also took a swipe at some foreign businesses operating in the country whom he accused of causing cash shortages by hoarding foreign currency and shipping it out of the country illegally.
“The other challenge is with some foreign businesspeople who are not banking their money. They came here looking for the US dollar. They don’t bank their money but ship it out to their respective countries,” he said.
Added the central bank chief; “Haemorrhaging of cash is something we have to fight as a whole country. It’s our money that is being shipped out. It is money belonging to tobacco farmers and small-scale miners that is being externalised. Our businesses should learn normal business practice where you bank surplus cash within the prescribed timeframe. As Zimbabweans we should be jealous and angry why people are externalising our cash and creating cash shortages.”