By Dumisani Nyoni
Bulawayo, August 25, 2016 – DEPOSITORS in the country’s second largest city were shocked this Thursday when they woke up to find Automated Tellor Machines (ATM) belonging to one of the biggest banks in Zimbabwe churning out South African rand notes as opposed to the US dollar.
This is despite having deposited their monies in US dollars which have a relatively strong value compared to rands.
Since the rand took a plunge in terms of value few months ago, residents in the country’s southern region have ditched the rand for the US dollar.
However, the greenback has since turned scarce in the country, prompting a direct policy pronouncement by government compelling shop owners, government departments and individuals to start accepting all other currencies in a list of “acceptable” foreign currencies in the country.
But while this seemed to be taking longer to happen, Barclays Bank started loading rands into its ATMs, causing outrage among depositors.
RadioVOP on Thursday saw a notice plastered on the banks’ Bulawayo branch ATMs indicating that it was only issuing out rands.
“Our ATMs are dispensing South African rand only,” read the notice.
Depositors who were confronted with the notice accused the bank of defrauding them of their hard-earned monies through cross-rates.
“I earn my salary in United States dollars but now I am forced to withdraw South African rands. This is totally unfair because there is the issue of cross-rate. The rand is ever tumbling and as such, we get defrauded in the process,” one depositor who identified herself as Linda Dube said.
Depositors said many supermarkets in the city, including public institutions such as hospitals, were preferring the US dollar as opposed to the rand.
This has caused more inconveniences to the transacting public which has had to resort changing the rands to dollars.
By late afternoon on Wednesday, the rand was down 4.91 percent, changing at R14.24 to the US dollar, down 4.23 percent at R16.02 to the euro and down 5.63 percent at R18.84 to the pound.
Zimbabwe is currently expertiencing a crippling cash crisis which has seen banks introducing withdrawal limits to mitigate the problem.
The troubled southern African nation dumped its local currency some seven years, after an unprecedented hyper inflationary period saw millions losing their hard earned earnings.
The country now has over nine currencies in circulation but Zimbabweans have resisted other currencies while preferring the US dollar.
Other currencies in the foreign currency basket include the Botswana Pula, Japanese yen, and the Chinese yuan.