|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
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Zimbabwe can't afford ink to print bank
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
Zimbabwe's central bank promised yesterday to issue large denomination travellers' cheques to ease a chronic cash shortage, caused because the nation cannot afford many of the printing inks.
However, many traders said they would refuse to accept the cheques, which were still not widely available yesterday. "Sorry, they haven't arrived yet," said a teller at a branch of Standard Chartered Bank.
The cheques are supposed to be available from all branches of mainstream banks, but those canvassed yesterday said they had had no deliveries yet from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
The nation is running out of cash. An inflation rate approaching 400 per cent has devalued notes in circulation and many people have begun to hoard money.
The country is so short of hard currency that it cannot afford many of the inks required to print higher denomination notes. But the government's plans to fill the gap with travellers' cheques raised scepticism among traders across the capital.
A supermarket manager said: "We will not accept them because how do we know they are genuine, and how do we give change for these big notes when we are short of cash ourselves?"
As shoppers went on a spree yesterday before a long weekend, another supermarket manager said the plan could even make the cash shortage worse.
"What do we do if someone buys a box of matches for Z$20 and gives us a travellers' cheque for Z$100,000? We can't afford to give change."
The head of one supermarket chain, who asked not to be quoted for fear of reprisals from edgy Reserve Bank officials, said: "We have told staff that if a consumer spends about Z$30,000, we will then give change, but nothing less than that. It's a mess. A terrible, terrible mess. There is going to be massive fraud."
The owner of a hardware store said: "Travellers' cheques in every other country can only be cashed with a passport. We are selling sandpaper and paint. We don't know how to deal with travellers' cheques."
About 70 per cent of Zimbabweans of working age are unemployed, and most survive on the informal market, worst hit by the inflation-fuelled cash shortage.
"We don't know these cheques. They are not money," said a broom seller in central Harare. Newspaper sellers, taxi drivers, bus conductors and brick sellers said they would also reject the cheques, even if they were readily available.
"We want cash. We can't use that piece of paper," said a newspaper seller whose trade has dropped by more than a third since the cash crisis crept up on President Robert Mugabe's administration two months ago.
A frail, white-haired man was one of those looking for the new travellers' cheques yesterday and groaned when he heard there were none. "My cheque book is finished. I am waiting for my bank card, and you will only let me have Z$10,000 (about £1.25) in cash, so what do I do?"
The central bank said: "The receiver of a payment in travellers' cheques is guaranteed payment of the value of the cheques by banks nationwide."
Fuel Sales to Zimbabwe to Continue
Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)
August 8, 2003
Posted to the web August 8, 2003
Botswana will continue to allow fuel sales to Zimbabweans but will considerbanning them if the traders violate customs and excise regulations, a seniorgovernment official has said.
Responding to claims that Botswana is contemplating to ban fuel sales to Zimbabwean motorists and commercial traders, Dr Jeff Ramsay, a senior spokesman in President Festus Mogaeās office said his government had no such plans.
He said even if such plans were there, it would be difficult for authorities in Gaborone to successfully enforce the regulations.
But if there are violations of customs and excise regulations, then a ban is possible, he said.
His comments come in the wake of an upsurge in cross-border traffic as scores of Zimbabwean motorists and traders flood Botswana, especially areas close to the border like Francistown to buy fuel, currently in short supply in their country.
The rising demand for fuel from Zimbabweans is causing supply problems to Batswana motorists, prompting them to complain that their reserves were being depleted.
Fuel imports to Zimbabwe from Botswana have been on the increase since the Zimbabwe government relaxed procurement regulations in January to allow individuals to import the commodity amid crippling shortages.
It is estimated that in June this year alone individual Zimbabwean motorists bought an average 20 000 litres of both diesel and petrol daily while commercial importers averaged 230 000 per day.