Source: Zim must just adopt rand – DailyNews Live
NDAKAZIVA MAJAKA 26 February 2017
HARARE – Since adoption of the multi-currency regime in 2009, following a
multi-billion percent inflationary meltdown caused by rampant
money-printing, spawning critical cash shortages – debate has been raging
on whether to adopt the rand or not.
Discussions on this will certainly gain renewed currency after President
Robert Mugabe last week hinted that Zimbabwe should adopt the rand to
mitigate the country’s severe liquidity and cash challenges, despite
fierce resistance by Reserve Bank governor John Mangudya and Finance
minister Patrick Chinamasa.
Debate on whether or not to “randify” is apparently intensifying behind
the scenes at high levels in government as the worsening currency crisis
is now a cause of grave concern to monetary and fiscal authorities.
Mugabe says he has repeatedly proposed introducing the South African rand
as the common legal tender.
“Well, I don’t know why the ministry of Finance together with the Reserve
Bank have not wanted to use other currencies. I have asked actually again
and again kuti why not have euros, why not have yuan, why not have rand
alongside with the (US) dollar?
“Ah tichazviita, tichazviita (Ah, we will do it, we will do it),” Mugabe
said in his traditional televised 93rd birthday interview.
This has all been sparked by the worsening liquidity crunch and cash
An unsustainable trade or current account deficit, poor
balance-of-payments position as well as massive revenue leakages and an
uneven distribution of liquidity in the market have worsened the cash
Veteran economist John Robertson told the Daily News on Sunday that Mugabe
was shifting blame to his chiefs.
“The strange thing about these pronouncements is that the president has
“The same way he stopped Chinamasa from cutting civil servant salaries and
foregoing bonuses is the same way he would have simply asked them to
introduce the rand,” Robertson said, referring to the September 2016
fracas when the Finance minister got a slap down from Mugabe after
announcing a raft of measures to slash government spending, which included
a suspension of civil servants’ bonuses, wage cuts, job cuts, and a range
of other austerity measures.
Chinamasa’s austerity measures also imposed tax on civil servants’
allowances, coupled with a promise to axe 25 000 workers, citing budgetary
“Why is Zimbabwe not using the rand?” Robertson asked rhetorically.
“That is the question you should be asking, because clearly, someone in
this matrix is not telling the truth.”
Just last year, reports emerged that the Zimbabwean and South African
governments were nearing closure on the formal adoption of the rand by
Harare, during a continental summit in Ethiopia.
While the agreement never saw light of day, economics guru and adviser to
the Office of the President and Cabinet, Ashock Chakravarti, insists the
short-term answer to Zimbabwe’s cash shortages is rand adoption.
“There have been discussions with the South Africans. They are willing to
get paid for their exports in rand.
“They are willing to accommodate us in the financial sector, so there is
no issue. All it needs is a law or statutory instrument re-denominating US
dollar balances into rand and say the rand is the currency in circulation.
“Countries monetise or demonetise all the time and they change their
currency, so I do not see any issue here.
“I know the country has been told that we need to join the Common Rand
Monetary Union (CRMU) to use the rand, but this is simply not true,”
Chakravati told delegates at a recent Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries
(CZI) round table.
The University of Zimbabwe professor said adoption of the rand would
benefit Zimbabwe immensely and rescue its imploding economy.
After numerous calls from all quarters to adopt South Africa’s currency,
the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has ruled out the adoption of the
currency or joining the sub-regional CRMU, citing the volatility of the
South African stocks kicked off 2017 in positive territory as a platinum
rally spurred producers of the precious metal, while dollar strength
knocked the volatile rand into the red.
Addressing a National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF) meeting in the
capital Harare recently, RBZ deputy governor Khupukile Mlambo said while
the US dollar was not an ideal currency on account of the numerous
“headaches” that came with it, adopting the rand carried more risks.
“We need to understand that the .. rand has its own challenges: it is
volatile… There is also the issue of joining the Rand Monetary Union and
we cannot do that without our own currency,” Mlambo said.
But Chakravarti said: “We do not have to join the CRMU to adopt the rand.
This is a long term issue which we can consider and decide whether it is
to our benefit or not, but the adoption of the rand can be done overnight.
It can be done tomorrow.”
CZI president Busisa Moyo has said manufacturers believe that adopting the
rand was the way to go.
“Individual members of CZI have come out strong on randisation and I think
we need to have some sort of action towards this.
“I do know that companies are already starting to do this and opening rand
“We also need to move the RTGS (Real-time gross settlement) system so that
it allows for transfers in rand without having to convert to US dollars.
“So our banking and economics and CZI chief economist need to work on some
sort of mock or draft statutory instrument on randisation, what it means,
and we start pushing that forward,” Moyo said.
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s major trading partner, with almost 40 percent
of imports from that country.
According to Chakravarti, rand adoption will allow for an increase in
financial inflows from South Africa.
Shane Helberg, area manager of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique at
leading independent international financial consultancy deVere Group –
which has around $10 billion under advice from 80 000 mainly expatriate
clients globally – has also backed adoption of the rand by Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe’s adoption of the rand as the main trading currency within the
country’s multi-currency system should be championed.
“Whilst the rand perhaps is not as weighty as the US dollar for
international trade as it is more volatile against major currencies, it
must be noted that the dollar has not been effective in arresting the
free-falling economy in recent times,” Helberg said.
His remarks came after the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (Baz) stated
that adoption of the rand would be one of the measures required to address
the cash shortages facing the country.
And, investment-parched Zimbabwe could also use it to boost investment.
Zimbabwe’s currency basket has over the years become dominated by the
greenback due to its global appeal and demand.
As a result, externalisation has been rife, with independent estimates
pointing out the country needs close to $1 billion in cash to plug its
dollar deficit and return to liquid normalcy.
Zimbabwe needs $900 million in order for normal cash-to-deposit ratio to
be achieved. But, currently, the country has real cash of only $304
According to Chakravarti, the ideal cash-to-deposit ratio is 15 percent to
prevent liquidity problems, but Zimbabwe’s current ratio is a measly four
At the moment, Zimbabwe has $232 million US dollars in circulation, with a
shortfall of almost $650-700 million.
And while the country introduced a parallel currency in the form of bond
notes last year, Chakravarti said even with full issuance of the surrogate
currency, the cash-to-deposits ratio remains pathetic.
“Even a full bond note issue of $200 million will not make a difference.
If ratio of bond notes to US dollar is increased beyond current
proportion, then it will no longer be a multi-currency situation and
premiums will start emerging on US dollars versus bond notes.
“As the cash shortage deepens, this premium will rise and can be viewed as
representing the depreciation rate of the new currency in the form of RTGS
“The value of all deposits will decline in terms of real US dollars,” the
economist said, adding bond notes could ease the liquidity situation a
little bit, so long as there was an adequate supply of US dollars.
When Zimbabwe adopted the multi-currency system, total deposits in the
banking system were $1,6 billion.
Hard cash circulation has since slumped 53 percent to $304 million
currently from $642 million in 2013.
In spite of this, bank deposits have increased from $4,7 billion in 2013
to $6,2 billion in 2016.
“So, you see, given all the cash statistics, Zimbabwe needs to adopt the
rand. South Africa is already a major trading partner so importing the
rand will not be a challenge and there are also remittances from
Zimbabweans based that side.
“When the multi-currency system was adopted, I told them the rand was the
way to go and I will still say it.
“The situation would not have gotten so out of hand. Rand externalisation
is a better situation over US dollar externalisation any day,” Chakravarti
Economists said to address the liquidity crunch gripping the economy,
authorities must swallow their pride and take decisive action by just
adopting the rand.