John Kachembere and Ndakaziva Majaka 11 April 2017
HARARE – The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) says the country should adopt
bond notes as a primary currency to alleviate cash shortages and solve
RBZ director Economic Research Simon Nyarota said calls for the formal
adoption of the South African rand as an anchor currency were not going to
solve the country’s biting cash shortages.
“The country needs to buttress the multi-currency regime with bond notes
towards a full currency board arrangement as part of a de-dollarisation
agenda,” he said during a public lecture at the National University of
Science and Technology in Bulawayo last week
“To migrate to a full currency board, the country needs to cover 100
percent of base money which currently stands at around $1,1 billion with
foreign currency reserves,” he added.
This comes as appeals for Zimbabwe to adopt the South African currency are
getting louder since President Robert Mugabe said he was agreeable to the
idea despite the reluctance to adopt the currency from his government.
Senior economic consultant Ashok Chakravati said rand adoption could also
reduce foreign currency leakages – that are largely blamed for the current
cash-crisis, with figures from the central bank showing that Zimbabwe lost
over $1,8 billion in seepages in the first half of 2016.
“It is a non-convertible currency and therefore it will remain mainly in
South Africa and in Zimbabwe,” he said, adding that there was no incentive
for economic agents to try and externalise the rand.
“An adequate supply of rand is available from our exports to South Africa,
Diaspora remittances from South Africa, and access to the South African
banking system – with which many of our banks and financial institutions
are already connected,” Chakravarti said.
Zimbabwe conducts 60 percent of all its trade with South Africa, according
to the country’s Treasury, and three million of its citizens are estimated
to live in its southern neighbour after fleeing economic hardship at home.
Zimbabwe abandoned its own currency in 2009 to end hyperinflation and
mainly uses dollars, along with rands, euros, pounds and several other
currencies also accepted as legal tender.
But, a shortage of foreign exchange after a slump in exports has stirred a
liquidity crisis that has forced government to introduce bond notes in a
desperate attempt to ease cash shortages
Economic analyst, Vince Musewe also People’s Democratic Party economic
affairs secretary said service providers in the country must embrace the
South African currency as a matter of urgency.
“It has always made sense to have the currency of our biggest trading
partner as the main currency. In a way, this would minimise
externalisation and also help with trade transactions between the two
“However, in my view, retailers and other service providers just need to
also price their items in rand. After all, the currency is already legal
tender in the country so it is not like there are legality issues with
doing this,” Musewe said.
He also pointed out that the country did not have a currency problem,
highlighting that currency issues were indicators of deeper economic
challenges like fiscal and monetary discord.
“I do not understand it when people keep stressing that the rand is
volatile. Yes, it is, show me a currency that is not volatile. What is the
point of having a stable currency that you do not have in the system?
“It is simply an issue of choosing between two devils here, and the rand
is the better devil. The RTGS system is already in rand as well, so it is
simply an issue of ensuring that everything is also priced in rand,”
The economist said formalisation of rand usage would also help correct
“It will save Zimbabweans from United States dollar over-pricing so it
will have a positive impact on the pricing regime and get rid of all these
ridiculous mark-ups and margins we have seen in the economy,” Musewe
Asset manager, Shane Helberg, pointed out that should the move to the rand
prove successful, Zimbabwe would receive more Foreign Direct Investment.
“We can expect further levels of foreign investment and in turn more
expats moving to Zimbabwe. A steady rise in foreign investment into
country will represent a clear mark of success after such a move.
“Clearly, international organisations and people bring with them a raft of
potentially enormous associated economic benefits to any host country,” he
Helberg also indicated that Zimbabweans and expats already in the country
would welcome a single currency to replace the present variety of
“Secondly, the measure should also help boost trade links with South
Africa, Zimbabwe’s major trading partner. For many years, South Africa has
been Zimbabwe’s single largest trading partner
“While 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
“When the rand becomes the de facto currency of Zimbabwe, the country’s
economic woes could seriously start to diminish,” Helberg said.
However, economist Brains Muchemwa said adoption of the South African rand
might not be a panacea to the country’s well-documented economic problems.
“The thinking – and an erroneous one for that matter – that the adoption
of the rand will make Zimbabwe a low cost producer is fronted by
businesses that have failed to restructure their business models to suit
the times or those who do not understand the key pillars of
competitiveness,” he said.
The former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe advisor said the country was not
competitive when it had its own currency while cost structures were
negligible on account of high inflation.
“Equally, the thinking that adopting the rand will result in the narrowing
of the chasm between RTGS balances and the real nostro balances to
eliminate the cash challenges is fallacious and should not even be granted
policy consideration,” he added.
Another economist Chris Mugaga said the rand was prone to its own
vagaries, pointing out that formal adoption of the currency would be a
“I do not understand why people think that the rand is attractive. Credit
agencies have been downgrading the currency and South Africa is in chaos
as its ruling party has an elective congress at the end of the year. Local
confidence in this currency is nothing short of baffling.
“Look, a currency must fight for its place. The rand is already part of
the multi-currency system but it was beaten out already, what is to stop
this from happening if the central bank endorses it as a dominant
currency?” Mugaga queried.
The analyst said Zimbabwe needed to fix economic dynamics instead of
focussing on currency issues.
“The rand will also disappear because the country’s problem is in low
production and low confidence.
“In my opinion, as far as currency goes, the central bank just needs to
admit that the bond is a currency so that life goes on and fundamentals
can be fixed,” said Mugaga.
Veteran analyst John Robertson also said Zimbabwe needed to produce more
than it is importing.
“If we are to adopt the rand as the primary currency, there must be
mechanisms to ensure that we also adopt South African prices for consumers
goods, bus fares, wages and rents among other things, otherwise nothing
much will change,” Robertson said.