From cash hoard­ers to panic buy­ers

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Feature - Sa­man­tha Chipoy­era Fea­tures Writer

ON Mon­day, most Zim­bab­weans woke up to a What­sApp mes­sage which read, “Buy ba­sic com­modi­ties and keep them. The USD/bond rate is es­ca­lat­ing at an alarm­ing rate and the USD has dis­ap­peared. There are peo­ple who have huge amounts in the banks and have failed to move their funds. They are now hoard­ing ba­sic com­modi­ties by swip­ing then sell onto the streets to get cash. As we speak if you have USD100 cash you will be given 122 Bond notes.

“If you want RTGS you will get 155. The rates are hik­ing at an alarm­ing rate. The sit­u­a­tion is chang­ing ev­ery hour. Vane nzeve dzekun­zwa gadzi­rai remag­wana.”

This mes­sage set off a chain of events that have left cash hoard­ers and those with high bank bal­ances in the cold as they pan­icked and spent all they had in their bank and EcoCash ac­counts.

Oth­ers who were stash­ing thou­sands of bond notes in their homes at a time the coun­try was fac­ing a short­age of cash in cir­cu­la­tion re­gret­ted the de­ci­sion as they also joined the panic buy­ing mad­ness only to fig­ure out goods they thought would run out were still be­ing re­stocked.

Some are stuck with boxes of cook­ing oil and car­tons of sugar and rice, blan­kets, cloth­ing items and zero bal­ances in their ac­counts.

They now curse the ru­mour mill, which each day poi­soned them with more and more spec­u­la­tion some even claim­ing the bond note would be phased out any­time. So toxic were the ru­mours that con­sumers were told the bond note would soon lose its value just like the way Bearer Cheques lost value in 2008.

Sur­pris­ingly, the same peo­ple ig­nored an of­fi­cial state­ment on the need for cur­rency and eco­nomic re­forms is­sued by the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, Pro­fes­sor Mthuli Ncube.

In the state­ment, the min­is­ter said var­i­ous mea­sures were be­ing put in place to ac­cel­er­ate eco­nomic re­forms that are nec­es­sary to right siz­ing the econ­omy.

He noted, in par­tic­u­lar, that Govern­ment was aware of con­cerns sur­round­ing the sta­tus of RTGS de­posits, fol­low­ing the di­rec­tive to sep­a­rate these ac­counts from the nos­tro for­eign cur­rency ac­counts.

On this the min­is­ter as­sured Zim­bab­weans say­ing: “We com­mit to pre­serve the value of these (RTGS) bal­ances on the cur­rent rate of ex­change of 1 to 1, in or­der to pro­tect peo­ple’s sav­ings.”

Yet, walk­ing into su­per­mar­kets in the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict showed a pic­ture of des­per­ate cash hoard­ers try­ing to dis­pose their money by hoard­ing gro­ceries.

Some were buy­ing ev­ery­thing and any­thing, no mat­ter the price just to rid the Bond note.

From cook­ing oil, to sugar, rice, pasta, cook­ing uten­sils, dish tow­els, matches, can­dles, weight scales, other elec­tri­cals, fur­ni­ture, bond pa­per, and other food stuffs, the cash hoard­ers like kids in a candy shop were run­ning crazy and pick­ing any­thing.

Un­be­known to many is that the for­eign cur­rency ex­change rates, on the black mar­ket, which were re­spon­si­ble for the panic had plunged start­ing Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

The same ru­mour mill that had been poi­son­ing them with in­for­ma­tion since the be­gin­ning of the week also went mute leav­ing the cash hoard­ers with no clue as to what to do next.

In the con­fu­sion they kept buy­ing and su­per­mar­ket pay points and tills soon filled up with Bond notes that were scarce just last week.

So shaken were cash hoard­ers that some even trav­elled from out­side Harare just to rid the bond note.

A woman who iden­ti­fied her­self as Mrs Mun­y­oro said she came all the way from Mure­hwa to dis­pose of all the cash she had at home.

“I read on What­sApp that there are price hikes and the Bond note is los­ing value.

“I could not risk los­ing all my sav­ings so I had to come to Harare to buy fur­ni­ture. It’s not like I do not have fur­ni­ture at home but it’s bet­ter for me to change ev­ery­thing that I have than to lose my money,” she said.

When the mes­sage cir­cu­lated she had ini­tially at­tempted to buy a car us­ing the Bond notes but car deal­ers had re­fused.

“I wanted to buy a car with this money but the car deal­ers in Harare told me that they were no longer ac­cept­ing bond notes and only wanted US dol­lars.

“I tied to change the Bond notes into US dol­lars but the ex­change rates were very high so I just de­cided to buy fur­ni­ture than lose what I sweated for,” said Mun­y­oro.

Now she re­grets not bank­ing her money and says she has learned her les­son.

An­other woman who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied bought a lot of Kango pots and plates at OK Mart in Brae­side.

She told The Her­ald that she had to buy some­thing valu­able be­fore all the money she had worked hard for lose value.

“I can­not risk los­ing what I have re­ally worked hard for. “I sell clothes and I have been keep­ing my prof­its at home be­cause I wanted to buy a res­i­den­tial stand but now I just have to use that money to buy my kitchen ware be­fore it loses value,” she said. At Glen View Area 8 Com­plex it was not busi­ness as usual this week. A lot of peo­ple flocked there to buy fur­ni­ture and some of the car­pen­ters were re­fus­ing plas­tic money as a form of pay­ment as they de­manded United States dol­lars and rands. Ms Lindiwe Marufu, who is a car­pen­ter at Glen View 8 Com­plex, said she was shocked to see that there was a lot of cash. “I am shocked to see peo­ple buy­ing with cash. Peo­ple were keep­ing cash in their houses. These are the peo­ple who are very selfish. One cus­tomer bought fur­ni­ture worth $2 000 and he paid it to the last cent in cash.

“If you ask around most peo­ple are nei­ther us­ing EcoCash nor swip­ing. They are buy­ing us­ing cash but a few weeks ago cash was not cir­cu­lat­ing,” said Marufu.

At a su­per­mar­ket in the CBD, one man could be seen push­ing a trol­ley with five irons, blen­ders, fan heaters, and toast­ers.

“I had a lots of money stashed at home. I want to get some­thing out of it,” he said as he looked around the shop for more mer­chan­dise.

He said he had learnt his les­son, first to bank money and keep it in cir­cu­la­tion and sec­ond to never lis­ten to what peo­ple spread on so­cial me­dia.

“I have re­alised that most prob­lems we have in Zim­babwe are self made. I was shocked by the amounts of money I saw peo­ple take out to pay for goods they did not even need. What were they do­ing with all that money at home?

“Peo­ple should just start bank­ing and keep money in cir­cu­la­tion. This way we will not have cash short­ages and spec­u­la­tion,” he said.

Con­sumer Coun­cil of Zim­babwe Chief Ex­ec­u­tive, Mrs Rose­mary Siy­a­chitema, said Zim­bab­weans should stop pan­ick­ing as most food­stuffs are there in lo­cal su­per­mar­kets.

She also urged Zim­bab­weans to de­sist from panic buy­ing and also to buy gro­ceries that are enough for them.

“Peo­ple should not panic as food­stuff is there in shops, they should buy what is enough for them and they should not buy in bulk so that every­one gets to buy. Let us not be selfish so that we build our econ­omy,” said Siy­a­chitema.

As those who pan­icked count their loses, the of­fi­cial po­si­tion still re­mains. Prof Ncube as­sured the na­tion that they would pre­serve the RTGS bal­ances on the cur­rent rate of ex­change of 1 to 1, in or­der to pro­tect peo­ple’s sav­ings.

In short there is no need to panic.

A shop­per loads gro­ceries into his car’s trunk at Mo­hammed Musa Whole­salers in Harare yes­ter­day. — (Pic­tures by Tariro Ka­man­gira)

Peo­ple buy sugar at in­flated prices from down-town tuck­shops which had stocked ba­sic com­modi­ties in Harare

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