via Riots over cash – DailyNews Live by Lloyd Mbiba and Mugove Tafirenyika 17 DECEMBER 2013
Civil servants ran amok at Allied Bank yesterday, beating up a branch manager and destroying glass doors as they demanded their money.
The chaos began shortly after 9am at Allied Bank branch along Third Street, Harare, when depositors were told that they could not get their money.
Witnesses said a group of civil servants, some in military attire who had been queuing to withdraw their salaries attacked the bank staff together with the manager after failing to get their money. They were joined by other depositors in the assault.
“When people learnt that they could not get their money they started assaulting the branch manager and bank staff,” Clifford Dube one of the depositors, said. “The whole fracas was started by soldiers who said they have been receiving $50 per day since they got paid last week and they could no longer accept that.”
A security guard, the witnesses allege, had to use pepper spray to stop the assault on the bank officials who had barricaded doors to control the crowd, resulting in some breaking the glass doors.
When the Daily News crew arrived at the bank around 10am, the glass doors were shattered, with debris all over the pavement.
Riot police closely monitored proceedings at the bank as disgruntled depositors stood outside.
One of the bank officials, who declined to divulge his name, told depositors to go to the bank’s Robert Mugabe branch, saying they would be able to access their cash there.
But when the Daily News crew visited this branch, scores of depositors were queuing inside the banking hall.
“I have not been able to access my last month’s salary,” said Chiyedza Chidangwara, a teacher.
“Everytime l come here I am told that I can get only get $50 or $100. I can’t believe this is happening? The banks should simply give us our money and stop this nonsense.”
Another teacher, William Mbizvo, said: “What happened to the branch manager and his staff is okay. This bank has been taking us for granted. We are struggling to get our monies which we worked for. This cannot continue to happen. We are going for the festive season and yet we cannot access our money.”
Stephen Gwasira, the bank’s chief executive officer, apologised for the mayhem at the bank.
“Allied Bank sincerely apologises to its valued customers about the unfortunate disturbance at one of its Harare branches, which resulted in a scuffle between the bank’s security and some customers,” Gwasira said.
“The incident occurred soon after opening as the tellers were preparing to start the day.
“Allied Bank sincerely apologised for the inconvenience emanating from the prevailing cash shortages, and assures its valued customers that the bank is making aggressive efforts to address the liquidity constraints. We are confident that these efforts will yield positive results.”
Allied Bank, previously Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG), rebranded last year after Trebo and Khays, an investment vehicle owned by Transport minister, Obert Mpofu pumped $23 million into the bank.
The bank has been struggling to pay depositors.
Just last week, scores of depositors besieged the bank’s branch along Third Street, and vowed to stay put until they got their money.
In another chaotic incident yesterday, there was pandemonium at Metropolitan Bank as depositors demanded their cash.
When the Daily News arrived at the bank’s Zimre Centre branch along Nkwame Nkrumah, commotion ensued after depositors failed to access cash, with security guards manning the bank struggling to contain them.
One depositor who identified himself as Clive said the bank had not opened since morning and depositors were getting agitated.
Riot police arrived to quell the chaos and the branch manager was seen negotiating with the depositors.
A Metropolitan Bank official said for the past week, they have been managing to disburse some cash to depositors.
“It’s not easy because of the liquidity crisis but our clients are managing to make withdrawals although demand for cash is very high. But we are managing.”
Efforts to get comment from Bankers Association of Zimbabwe boss Sijabuliso Biyam and the association’s president George Guvamatanga were unsuccessful as their mobile phones went unanswered.
Alson Mfiri, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe spokesperson, had also notresponded to questions sent to him by the time of going to press.