Overnight Bank queues resurface as cash crunch worsens

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OVERNIGHT bank queues have resurfaced in Masvingo, with depositors, particularly from rural areas, being forced to sleep in queues in an effort to withdraw their money, as the cash crunch worsens.

Hordes of depositors, comprising of pensioners and rural-based civil servants, yesterday slept outside the People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB) banking hall in Masvingo so they could be served first the following day.

Some of the depositors said they had withdrawn the maximum daily cash limit of $100 but could not go back to their workstations before they had emptied their accounts, since it would be more expensive to come back to town again.

“I am based in the rural areas and today I only managed to get $100. I want to withdraw all my cash so that I do not come back here. It will cost me a lot in terms of bus fare and so it is better I take all my cash at once and then come back the next pay day, as I have debts to people and I cannot make transfers to their bank accounts. Some of the amounts I owe range from $10 to $20,” one of the ‘vigil depositors’, who did not want to be identified said.

The development came as some banks reduced the daily withdrawal limits to between $100 and $50.

Another depositor said they were losing significant amounts of money due to bank charges, since they could not withdraw all their cash at once.

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Bank charges are now chewing a lot of our money because we are making several transactions in-order to get all our cash from our accounts,” he said.

The depositors said they cannot access the cashback facility at retail stores that demand purchase of goods worth more than $15 for one to get $100, or sometimes say they do not have cash.

The cashback facility allows customers to withdraw their money from till operators, depending on how much they would have spent at the retailer.

However, the facility has been greatly compromised, as retail stores have experienced a huge decline on the back of decreasing cash transactions to only 20%, due to a surge in plastic money use.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president, Denford Mutashu told NewsDay on Tuesday that the cashback facility was also facing similar challenges.

“What a shop gives out as the cashback facility is dependent on what has come through cash transactions. And the fact that customers are now more and more transacting via point-of-sale (POS) machines diminishes cash availability.

“The demand for cash is related to pay days for government employees. The usage of plastic money has significantly gone up. This is quite encouraging. On average, more than 80% of a shop’s transactions are attributable to POS machines,” he said.

The central bank is currently making efforts, together with Zimswitch, financial institutions and mobile banking providers, to ensure a stable infrastructure is in place to support the electronic payment system.

Zimbabwe’s total number of POS machines increased to 20 000 at the end of March this year from 17 069.

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