By Lungile Ngwenya and Tanaka Mrewa
Panic-stricken Foreign Currency Account (FCA) holders on Thursday besieged various banks in Bulawayo to withdraw their funds fearing that their foreign currency will be liquidated onto the interbank on a willing seller – willing buyer basis.
This follows an announcement made on Monday, when the central bank ended the 10-year multi-currency regime, directing all domestic transactions to be completed using the RTGS currency thereby announcing re-introduction of the Zimbabwe dollar.
This caused great anxiety in the markets giving rise to speculation that foreign currency withdrawals have been banned.
In countering speculation on the market with regards to cash withdrawals, the apex bank assured the banking public with nostro accounts that they will still be allowed to access their hard cash.
CITE news crew visited various banking halls and retail shops assessing people’s response to the SI 142 of 2019.
At a CABS branch situated along Jason Moyo Street in the Central Business District (CBD), some clients who spoke to this publication said the bank was refusing to give them foreign currency claiming to have received a directive from Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe not to issue US dollars even to individual account holders.
“They said they have a directive not to issue USD to Nostro account holders unless if they have irrefutable proof that they are travelling out of the country,” fumed one client who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“They said either I leave my money in the account as US dollars or I take RTGS$ at a rate of 1:6.5”.
The CITE News Crew inquired from the tellers at the branch who confirmed that they were not issuing foreign currency.
This is contrary to assurances from the central bank boss Dr John Mangudya that cash withdrawals from FCA accounts by individuals are still permissible and the policy position hasn’t changed.
However, officials from banks such as CBZ, Steward Bank, ZB Bank said they were still issuing foreign currency to its clients, when CITE inquired.
The currency chaos was also evident in retail shops which were transacting using the multi-currency system.
Most of these retailers were out-rightly refusing to take USD citing it was no longer a “legal currency,” with the exception of a few who were discreetly accepting to trade in the banned foreign currency.
“There is nothing that we can do about this situation, we still need the foreign currency. You can pay using it if that is what you have. We just don’t have to publicise it,” said one salesperson in the CBD.
Another trader said they are no longer taking the USD until there is official communication that they can start trading it again.
“In as much as we want to use it still, we can no longer do so. It has been said to be illegal to do so. We cannot lose our stock because we do not know what would happen to us if we are caught on the wrong side of the law,” said the trader.