‘BAD MONEY’: Bond notes, the surrogacy currency that Zimbabwe introduced last year to ease the critical cash shortage, are now rapidly losing value against the US dollar. Picture: AFP
Zimbabwe’s Steward Bank has suspended payments to MultiChoice, the pay-TV subsidiary of Naspers, citing the unavailability of foreign currency, in a sign that dollar shortages are worsening in the nation. Local banks have been forced to limit withdrawals because of cash shortages, while importers face long delays in paying for goods they bring in, forcing some businesses to buy dollars on the parallel market. Steward Bank, a unit of mobile telephony operator Econet Wireless, said that it was suspending payments to Multichoice, Africa’s largest pay-TV company, which is popular in Zimbabwe. “To assist in the effective allocation of foreign currency reserves at this critical time, we would like to advise that, with immediate effect, the bank has suspended DStv payments for all account classes (except premium),” the bank said. 
Last year in May, the central bank set priorities for imports, imposed limits on cash withdrawals and introduced a bond-note currency in a bid to ease the acute shortage of money. The International Monetary Fund in a report on Friday estimated that between $600million (R8.02billion) and $800m was in circulation in Zimbabwe. Economic analysts say that most of the money was outside the official bank sector. Most Zimbabweans, who still vividly remember the 500billionpercent hyperinflation that wiped out their savings and pensions in 2008, are holding on to US dollars as a store of value, worsening the currency shortages. -