The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Dr John Mangudya said there is enough foreign currency for bonus payouts and civil servants should not panic and spend nights in bank queues.
Some banks have also extended banking hours from 3pm to 7pm to cope with the surge in the number of civil servants seeking to withdraw cash.
They have also increased staff complement to ensure the bonus payouts are disbursed in time.
This comes after disturbing reports of stampede at the banks with others spending nights in long queues in order to get their bonus payment in foreign currency.
Responding to questions during a financial crimes indaba held for bank executives by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission in Harare this week, Dr Mangudya said the banks had enough money for all and civil servants should not panic.
He said the people of Zimbabwe had a problem of wanting to hold foreign currency in their hands, a challenge that is influenced by the 2008 era of hyperinflation, which has since been managed.
“What you are seeing out there is about obsession to hold foreign currency. The Government, in good faith, is paying civil servants’ bonus in foreign currency but there are long queues at all the banks.
“I have received so many messages from civil servants, even my relatives, asking me whether there is enough money. I told them that there is enough money for everyone. Even Cabinet issued a statement that there is enough money.
“It’s a general tendency of all Zimbabweans and you will be surprised that some of the people in the bank queues will have to sell their own money on the black market. We have a problem of craving to hold foreign currency,” said Dr Mangudya.
He added: “Why do people behave that way? It’s linked to past experiences which people have gone through. I do understand their behaviour and I empathise with the people of Zimbabwe. It’s because people lost value in this economy, around 2008 when we had hyperinflation. That inflation was attended to through dollarisation. There was stability of the economy. The same people went through the two episodes of hyperinflation and dollarisation.
“It means the mindset is now influenced by the past experiences. It means we need to find ways and means to ensure that our local currency has value to stabilise our prices.”
The People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB) also assured its customers in the civil service that there is enough foreign currency bonus for all.
“POSB would like to advise its valued customers that the bank has sufficient foreign currency to meet all cash disbursements relating to the USD bonuses paid out by the Government of Zimbabwe between November 30 and December 3, 2021,” the statement reads.
POSB apologised for the inconveniences caused when people thronged the bank with a few being served, saying it was due to pressure and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The bank further advises that the close timing of the pay dates triggered an unprecedented influx of customers to POSB branches for cash withdrawals resulting in significant strain on service delivery.
“The situation has been further compounded by the effect of the current wave of the Covid-19 pandemic on branch operations,” reads the statement.
POSB has extended banking hours from around 3pm to 7pm and it has also increased its staff complements to ensure the clients access their bonuses in time.
The bank also notified its clients that it has enhanced Covid-19 preventative protocols.
A survey showed that some civil servants were now sleeping in bank queues in the central business district to access their money.
The situation is more pronounced at the CABS branch, located at corner First Street and George Silundika Avenue in Harare.
The civil servants complained that banks were slow in paying out the monies with only a limited number of payments per day.
At CABS’ First Street branch, a delegation of civil servants went to the central bank with a complaint where they were referred to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
A member of the group Mr Tanaka Muchauya said: “Upon learning that the building society was only serving 150 civil servants for the day, we decided to approach the RBZ seeking assistance. We were further referred to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development where we got security agents who accompanied us to the bank to engage the management.
“The bank manager said there was skeletal staff since most of them had been affected by Covid-19. To that end, the manager said the bank could only serve a limited number of people daily.”
Ms Miriam Hacha said some civil servants were now hiring senior citizens and those with disabilities, who get preferential treatment and help them jump the queues.
“Some people here are using their old-aged relatives to collect a bank slip and bank number for them. They will later on come and collect their money ahead of others who would have slept in the queues,” she said.