Tuesday, 10 March 2020

CASH CRUNCH BITES


The cash crisis in the country is worsening with pensioners being the hardest hit by the prevailing situation.

Cash shortages have forced some people to sleep outside banks hoping to be served first due to long queues.  Some who have difficulties getting cash from banks rely on traders who charge premiums of up to 40 percent.

Mobile money agents and those connected to people who have access to money are mainly involved in the business of selling cash.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) introduced new $5 and $2 notes and $2 coins to ease shortages of physical cash, but accessing the money in banks remains a challenge, with some people claiming that bank workers were diverting cash to street dealers.

Government has since said an additional $500 million in notes and coins will be injected into the economy by June. For now, people are having a hard time getting cash. 

 A Chronicle news crew yesterday went out and spoke to a number of people queuing at banks who narrated their challenges in accessing their money.

“Goods are slightly cheaper when you buy in cash from the street and when paying bus fare. I am a pensioner and I spent over 35 years in service. I was contributing my pension money to prepare for my retirement but now I live like a person who was disorganised and did not make preparations for retired life. It is very difficult. I live in Kezi,” said a man who only identified himself as Mr D Jiyane.

A nurse at a local hospital, Barbra Munyemba (53), who was trying to get cash at CABS along Jason Moyo between 9th and 10th Avenues said she sometimes has to be in the queue as early as 5AM.

She said despite the long lines she queues for cash because she needs the money to travel to work and some retailers charge extra when she wants to pay using Eco-Cash.

“I have no choice but to queue because I need cash to travel to work and I also need cash to buy mealie meal and basic foodstuffs from informal traders because they are cheaper than the  big supermarkets,” said Mrs Munyemba.

Ms Thandekile Ncube (57) of Kenilworth, who had been in the queue for more than six hours, said her worst nightmare when in bank queues was accessing public toilets when nature calls. 

“We are human beings and when nature calls, we must act. Banks offer us no public facilities and as old people we take medication that makes us frequent the toilets. As you see us here, we are likely to spend the night in these ques, already it is midday but there is no communication,” she said.

An 82-year-old man, who did not want to be identified, said he had been in town since 4.30AM looking for money because he needed cash to avoid bank charges when swiping.

“I came into town at about four in the morning to queue for money. I started at the ZB Bank branch in town where I was told they did not have cash and I decided to walk to the branch in Belmont to try my luck, only to be told they did not have money as well. I need cash to buy small food items like vegetables from informal trades who do not take Eco-cash or swipe because I incur high bank charges when I swipe in supermarkets,” he said.

A retired educator, who only preferred to be identified as Ms Ncube (75) from Mahatshula suburb, said she now spends most of her time at her rural homestead in Lower Gweru, but encounters hardships in accessing her pension.

“I served in the ministry of education for 40 years. In 2008, we lost our savings. Now with the new currency, it is happening again. Our pension payouts were more stable during the US dollar era. I want to get my money in cash because in Lower Gweru there is no swipe facility. Here in the city, there are $20 bank charges per swipe transaction. They further corrode my meagre pension. Imagine when I want to do three different transactions, for bill payments, groceries and at the pharmacies. I have since cancelled my landline subscription at home and rely on the cellphone, which is mostly for receiving calls,” she said.

 Another pensioner, Mr Stephen Mthunzi decried the treatment that senior citizens get from banks as compared with his experience in the past.

 “We as old people use to get preferential treatment but now. I must wait in line and fight for a place with the youths. It’s not easy,” he said.

Wishmore Mamvura (23) said he was able to get cash from CBZ bank after queuing outside the bank from three in the morning so he can use the cash to travel to work and purchase goods from informal traders. 

“I was able to get cash today because I made sure to come to the bank early in the morning. I prefer to use cash over swiping because foodstuffs are cheaper from the vendors that sell outside compared to the supermarkets,” he said. Chronicle

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