When Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power in Zimbabwe in November 2017, he warned citizens and others to return cash they had sent out of the country. For doing so within 3 months of the announcement, they would be granted amnesty. Since the announcement, $250 million has returned to the country.
Last week, Acting Information Minister Simon Khaya Moyo said 105 of those who exported cash illegally had returned it. But he said 1166 more people or companies still needed to return cash. He added that the total outstanding amount still outside the country was $1.3 billion, and that the deadline had been extended for a further two weeks, to March 15.
Zimbabwe’s banks and the economy are critically short of foreign currency, and in the last few weeks, cash tills in most supermarkets have been empty, with banks struggling to release even small amounts to its customers. Most ATMs never have any cash.
The only real currency that seems to be available in limited numbers are coins, called bond coins, which are minted in South Africa and cannot be used outside of Zimbabwe.
Most people now use phantom cash, as some call it, and those with bank accounts pay for groceries with debit cards that they can use in shops, but not to get cash out of the banks or ATMs. Poorer people use their cellphones to pay their bills, including electricity and school fees.
The black market for US dollars has stabilised in recent months, traders say, and a US dollar cash note is now trading at 1.4 to electronic money stored and used via people’s cellphones or in local bank accounts. Bond notes have a slightly lower rate at present.
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