Harare - Hyper-activity on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp dominated the introduction of Zimbabwe’s bond notes – what with vendors on the streets accepting the new currency for airtime credit purchases and other goods – but there was no such excitement among the big retailers, who initially rejected the notes.
Zimbabweans took to Twitter and other social media platforms to post pictures and selfies with the new notes. Others waited in queues, braving the showers and overcast weather to withdraw money, which came in a combination of US Dollar and local bond notes.
Economist John Robertson said it would take days to get a full picture of the acceptability and impact of the bond notes on the Zimbabwean market. He said commuter transport operators’ acceptance would be a big indicator of developments with the bond notes. “It’s a bit early to tell. But the best people are commuter transport operators who would have to then be able to buy petrol with the bond notes.
“Bank managers said they had not experienced glitches programming the bond notes into ATMs. When they opened, there were a few complaints from depositors who did not want the bond notes but most customers immediately accepted the bond notes, according to officials.
“There have been no difficulties programming the bond notes into the system for machines but we had some depositors complaining that they did not want the bond notes. As time progressed, people started to accept what was on offer and the bond notes are now out onto the market,” said one bank manager in Harare.
Banks were issuing about US$50 (R690) and up to $40 (in local bond notes) at cash machines. Most banks in Zimbabwe have imposed $100 cash withdrawal limits subject to availability.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) said the bond notes – which have equal value to the greenback – would have a limit of $50 per day and about $150 per week.
Although it was smooth flowing at the bank, it was a case of mixed fortunes in early trade on the streets, with vendors accepting the new money. However, the big supermarkets, including Pick n Pay and OK Zimbabwe, were not accepting the bond notes.
“We are waiting for the security features and samples from the Reserve Bank. For now we are not accepting the bond notes,” said a manager at a Pick n Pay.
Till operators at OK Zimbabwe outlets were also turning down purchases using the new Zimbabwe currency said to be backed by a $200 million facility from Afreximbank.
The government has explained that the bond notes are meant to incentivise exporters but are being offered to the public. Denford Mutashu, the president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers, said 80 percent of retail and wholesale businesses in Zimbabwe were accepting the bond notes.
Other retailers such as Choppies of Botswana were accepting the bond notes and Mutashu confirmed this. There were growing fears that the introduction of the bond notes would pave the way for a thriving currency parallel market.
The RBZ said it had so far introduced about $10m in bond notes but a series of protest actions had now been lined up for later this week against the new currency.