Foreign-Owned Banks Sitting On Cash, Claims BAZ

BAZ President, John Mushayavanhu was on Monday seeking an urgent meeting with the three foreign owned commercial banks operating in Zimbabwe.

“The foreign-owned commercial banks are sitting on close to US$540 million in their head offices,” a top banker said in an interview.

He cannot be revealed for professional reasons.

“I understand our boss (Mashayavahnu) is asking to meet them so that they can remit some of their cash back to Zimbabwe where they are operating. They need to just send us about US$200 million and our cash crisis could come to an end right now.”

The commercial banks are Standard Chartered Bank of Zimbabwe Limited (Stanchart) currently led by Washington Matsaira, Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe Limited, led by George Guvamatanda, and Standard Bank of Zimbabwe Limited (Stanbic) led from Malawi by Pindie Nyandoro, who left Zimbabwe.

Mushayavanhu leads First Banking Corporation of Zimbabwe Limited which is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE).Barclays is also listed on the ZSE and is among the high flyers on the bourse today.

Stanchart and Barclays are headed from London in the United Kingdom, which has openly come against Zimbabwe’s controversial Land Resettlement Programme (LRP) begun in 2000 by President Mugabe and his former ruling party, Zanu (PF).

Stanbic, on the other hand, is controlled from South Africa, Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner and where most of its citizens have fled to since the economic and political crisis settled in before 2008.

Over the weekend, the Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, admitted that the country’s cash crisis had to be dealt with urgently but bankers say his hands are tied and he cannot do anything.

“They want Zanu PF and President Mugabe to go, full stop,” the banker said.

“Cash is coming in through donors who are not giving the government any cent but are sending it out through the United Nations donor organisations such as UNICEF. The government is in a fix right now and the situation could get worse before it can get better.”

Last week many commercial banks operating in Harare, the capital city, ran out of United States dollars, sending shock waves within the business community.

A survey done in Harare showed that mainly indigenous owned and controlled commercial banks had no cash.

Interfin Bank Limited, a subsidiary of Interfin Financial Holdings Limited had no cash at its Towers Branch along Samora Machel Avenue. Cash came in after lunch. Interfin is listed on the ZSE having rebranded from CFX Financial Holdings Limited (CFX).
CBZ Bank Limited, a subsidiary of the ZSE-listed CBZ Financial Holdings Limited (CBZ) did not have any cash in the morning but had it later during the day.

CABS, Zimbabwe’s largest building society, also did not have cash and there were long queues outside most of its branches.

However, Barclays and Stanchart, ironically, were awash with cash and customers could withdraw any amount even from their ATMs during the cash crisis. Other commercial banks, on the other hand, were limiting customers especially from ATM machines on Monday morning.

Zimbabwe is facing a serious cash crisis ever since sanctions were introduced on its economy by the US and the European Commission as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Minister Biti has regularly come out clearly admitting that the country has run out of cash and, therefore, he could not allow the civil service to get their annual salary increase resulting in a nationwide strike.

The RBZ has remained tight-lipped on the sensitive issue.