Street foreign currency dealers, popularly known as Osiphatheleni whose business has been severely affected by the COVID-19 national lockdown, have now devised new strategies for remaining in business.
Zimbabwe is currently on an extended lockdown as part of measures by the government to flatten the Coronavirus infections curve.
The initial 21-day lockdown, which came into effect on March 30, was on April19 extended by a further 14 days before its expiry midnight.
Zimbabwe’s confirmed cases of the deadly pandemic now stand at 28, while globally over 2,5 million people have since contracted the virus, which has also claimed nearly 200 000 lives.
During the lockdown only people providing essential services are allowed to get into town while the rest remain barred unless their travelling is proven beyond any shadow of doubt that it necessary.
What this means is that the city centre, where most forex deals used to take place prior the lockdown remains out of bounds to most foreign currency dealers, who do not constitute the essential services.
To make matters worse for osiphatheleni, police are not hesitant to round up people loitering in town, with Bulawayo already leading with numbers of arrests associated with the violation of lockdown measures.
Forex dealers have however not sat back and relaxed but have come up with innovative ways of doing business countrywide.
In fact before the lockdown some of forex dealers who have developed a network of their customers invited those who would need EcoCash transfers to remit US Dollars in advance.
“To those who will need EcoCash, in 21 days shutdown you can bring the USD in advance,” read a notification sent by a forex dealer to his clients a day before lockdown.
Some forex dealers who live in the city centre do some cash deliveries to their customers in the high density suburbs such Emganwini, Pumula South, Gwabalanda among others.
There are also those forex dealers who have created WhatsApp chat groups in which they give daily updates on rates.
“Hello everyone, I hope I find you well in the name of Jesus,” read a message in one WhatsApp chat group.
“We are starting to trade as from tomorrow with the eco best rate in town, so get ready.”
CITE reached out to one forex trader who said while they had devised strategies it was still not yet easy.
“Things are not easy papa,” he said.
Some of the challenges faced by forex dealers during the lockdown include the unavailability of cash, while their EcoCash wallet balances do not last long as well.