While the use of multi-currencies have gone a long way in resuscitating the ailing Zimbabwean economy, the same system has caused pain among rural area dwellers, the majority of whom are not formally employed and survive on farming and keeping livestock.
The multi-currency system has caused confusion in the Matabeleland area.
Samukeliso Ndiweni (60) from Lupane, which is about 120 kilometres north of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city said not many people in the rural areas had access to foreign currency because they were unemployed.
“When I want to sell a goat I know that it exchanges for five buckets of maize but it becomes difficult when someone comes with US dollars, South African rands or even Botswana Pulas because I don’t know what to charge them as I do not understand the currencies. As a result I resort to barter trade,” said Ndiweni.
“The last time I had US$10 and when I bought mealie-meal I received 40 Rands change but two weeks later I bought the same commodity using the same currency and I received 30 rands change and the reason was that the rate had changed,”said Ndiweni.“All this is confusing because it becomes difficult to know whether one has been cheated or not.”
Thabani Moyo also said he relied on barter trade.
“Nowadays I exchange my produce for what I need and the local schools have made it easier for villagers as they allow us to pay school fees with whatever we have and the school will later sell whatever we have bartered to those with the money,”Moyo said.
Last term he parted with three goats as payment for school fees for his three sons in primary school.
In the area a two litre bottle of fresh milk exchanges for a pumpkin while a bucket of maize exchanges for five litres of cooking oil. A live goat exchanges for a new blanket and two chickens can be exchanged for a trouser.
Tricksters and conman have however taken advantage of the confusion and ignorance among the villagers by using counterfeit currencies to procure goods.
“Two months ago I sold four cows to two people who claimed they were running butcheries in Bulawayo and I later realised that the 8 000 South African Rands they gave to me were fake and I have resolved that I will never use any of the new currencies but I will trade whatever I have with any goods and services that I need,”said Timothy Ncube, a local villager who keeps cattle and goats in his small plot.
For some cases the situation is hilarious. Evans Sibanda, a 24 year old unemployed youth from the area, said he had never touched any of the foreign currencies and begged this news crew to let him have a look and a feel of the South African Rand or any denomination of the US dollar.
“This money is not as beautiful as the Zimbabwean dollar, it is so plain,”he said excitedly as he ran his fingers through a one US dollar note handed over to him.
Zimbabwe’s leading economist, John Robertson, said the foreign currency shortages in rural areas were spurred by lack of employment opportunities and the reduced availability of funds from the Diaspora.
“There are no employment opportunities in rural areas and the commercial farms that used to employ the rural people are no longer productive while the majority of rural people in the past relied on relatives in the Diaspora to send them foreign currency but that is not happening as the relatives are also facing a financial crunch due to the global recession,” Robertson said.
He said as a result the local rural business were not receiving any cash inflows and this affected social services and schools as the villagers did not have any disposable income.
“The situation is not likely to change as long as things continue as they are, people will continue resorting to barter trade and social services will also be paid through the barter system,”Robertson said.
Ever since the economic situation deteriorated in Zimbabwe an estimated three million people left the country to seek greener pastures in South Africa, Britain, Australia, Botswana, New Zealand and in Canada among other countries and the immigrants have been sending foreign currency to support their families back at home.