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Zimbabweans lose saving culture

The culture of saving among Zimbabweans has since been eroded following the two-decade-long economic meltdown that has left many citizens of the Southern African country poorer.

Those born years after independence are yet to taste the benefits of saving and let alone begin saving.

With prices of almost everything that is sold, continuing to skyrocket, the majority of Zimbabweans in both rural and urban areas now live from hand to mouth, with little or no room to save.

While those who were gainfully employed prior year 2000 managed to save and invest in something, all that was lost in the hyperinflationary years reaching fever pitch in 2007 and 2008.

From that time members of the public lost confidence in the financial services sector also compounded by the fact that when the Zimbabwean dollar was demonetised following the adoption of the multicurrency system in 2009, account holders were given peanuts that some did not even bother to withdraw from their banks.

“I think because of the economy and the ever rising prices of basic commodities and services it is next to impossible to save,” said Nozibusiso Sivalo, a resident of Bulawayo.

“We are living from hand to month. The little bit of money you get covers immediate needs such as food, fuel, school or medical expenses. In most cases the income cannot cover all the basic household expenses. There is virtually nothing to save for those getting salaries in local currency as they are consumed by the ever rising prices especially of food.”

Sivalo said it was regrettable that the power utility, ZESA had also hiked tariffs, further worsening the burden of the already cash-strapped members of the public.

“In my opinion for most people there is nothing to save,” she said.

“Another contributing factor to people dreading saving is the banking situation. It is a painful and difficult process to withdraw money from the bank and there are limits as to how much one can withdraw, not to mention the ridiculously high bank charges. The few that have access to USD are saving through savings and lending clubs which sounds more reasonable.”

 Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) Matabeleland regional manager, Comfort Muchekeza told CITE, financial institutions were largely to blame for the collapse of the saving culture among Zimbabweans.

“It is however vey possible to restore the culture of saving, but that also depends with what one calls saving,” he said.

“Now if you put your money into a bank account and then incur a cost, can you call that saving? As long as there are costs involved it is no longer saving. You can deposit say $50 into a bank account today but instead of it earning you an interest three months down the line, you are told, you now owe the bank.”

Muchekeza said public confidence in the banking sector was eroded long back, adding many consumers prefer to keep their money under pillows instead of entrusting banks with that responsibility.

“It is always a struggle whenever people want to withdraw their money from the bank. You are sometimes told to come the next day or told of withdrawal limits.”

Financial analyst, Morris Mpala, said as long as the local currency remained weak, it would take some time for Zimbabweans to resume the saving culture.

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