Zimbabwe issues fresh banknotes to ease cash shortages

A man shows a wad of the new Zimbabwe two-dollar notes he received from a bank in Harare on November 12, 2019. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Cash-strapped Zimbabweans began using new banknotes and coins Tuesday, as the nation’s central bank seeks to ease chronic shortages.

The Zimbabwean dollar is being gradually reintroduced, after being rendered worthless by decades of economic mismanagement under former president Robert Mugabe.

That forced the country to rely on US dollars for a decade.

New two- and five-dollar notes were disbursed by the central bank on Monday.

One Zimbabwean dollar is currently worth around six US cents.

“Bond” notes — a legal tender pegged to the US dollar — was introduced in 2016 to alleviate chronic cash shortages and ease a transition back to Zimbabwean dollars.

These were then supplemented with electronic RTGS dollars in June 2019.

But cash remains hard to come by, and most people use mobile money and now-banned foreign currencies to pay for goods.

Withdrawals remain capped at a maximum of 300 new Zimbabwean dollars ($18) per week per customer – which buys less than three kilogrammes of beef.

Account-holders wait long hours to draw cash.

In Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, bank customers remained sceptical.

“There is no difference,” Milton Mushangwe, 37, told AFP. “The withdrawal limits remain the same.”

“We are still getting the same small amount of 100 dollars or less,” added another customer, Richard Govha.

Zimbabwe’s reserve bank said that only 31 million new Zimbabwean dollars (less than $2 million) had been disbursed so far, of a planned total of one billion that is to be drip-fed into the system over the next six months.

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