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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 August 2006, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Zimbabwe cash switch: Your experiences
Zimbabwean displays a new banknote (R) alongside the phased out bearers cheques (L)

Zimbabweans living in the country and abroad describe the effects of the recent currency reform, a week since the initial deadline expired rendering the old currency no longer legal tender.

In a move to tackle hyper-inflation and crackdown on illegal trading activities the government removed three zeros from its currency's value at the beginning of August.

Click on the links below to read about their experiences.

Kit
Black market trader

Desire
Office clerk

John
Professional

Anna
Student abroad

People's names have been changed to protect their identity. The viewpoints have been selected from as wide a cross-section of people as possible and may not be representative of wider Zimbabwean public opinion.

Kit, black market trader in Zimbabwe

As with most things the currency changeover, so-called Operation Sunrise, has had both negative and positive sides to it.

I buy and sell fuel, gold and foreign currency and the change has brought difficulties to business between my operations here and in the UK.

Residents queue at a bank in Harare on Monday to exchange old banknotes for new
Activity on the parallel market is likely to be more rampant now. The changeover has made it easier
Shakeman Mugari
Business reporter

The Zimbabwean government has deemed business activities like mine to be illegal - however in the UK my business is recognised as a legitimate enterprise.

The only positive effect is the practical one - the counting and carrying of cash has been made easier.

Economically there has been little change - prices continue to rise, as does the exchange rate. And as they rise, the black market still continues to flourish, although it must be noted that the strict deadline and the regulations did catch quite a few people by surprise.

Myself included!

My business enables Zimbabweans living in the UK to send money home to their dependents and relatives.

The transactions are mainly carried out in cash and it became the responsibility of the remittance receivers to take their sums of the old currency to the bank themselves.

Thus I was able to avoid bringing unnecessary attention to myself.

My business carries out a lot of transactions each day but a lot of them are relatively low amounts, when converted into British pound stirling.

However for the larger transactions, say anything over 250, they are done undetected with the help of bank-to-bank internal transfers.

Not over yet

Another way my business has got round the strict impositions was by extending the time it normally would take.

Protestor grips his hands in front of his t-shirt during a weekly protest against the Mugabe leadership in Zimbabwe
Many Zimbabweans live in exile

Customers have had to accept that the previous 24-hour service can no longer be guaranteed. Now, 48 hours is the fastest I can do.

Black market traders, like myself, are still not over the changes and functioning like before.

It has made our life difficult, but whatever happens or whatever gets thrown at us there is always a plan to be made.

The main negative effect had by the currency changeover is definitely the way it has been carried out.

Not everyone has understood the procedure and deadlines, especially out in the rural lands. Many people had not even heard about it.

It was also unfortunately sad that many travelled great distances to swap their old money, only to have most of it taken away by corrupt police officials at the numerous roadblocks which had been set up around the country.

Desire, 27, office clerk in Harare

The currency changeover has affected many people in different ways.

Business people have used it as an excuse to hike their prices and people in the rural areas are yet to understand the changes.

People are taking advantage of the confusion and jumping on the bandwagon... most businesses have upped their prices
Shakeman Mugari
Business reporter

People have definitely capitalised during this period of change.

I commute to work by bus and over the last three weeks, my fare has risen by a third.

With my salary I provide for my wife and our child, as well as some of my brothers and sisters. We all live in my late parent's house.

Last week I received a water utility bill backdated to May for 20,000 new Zimbabwean dollars.

The equivalent of my monthly net salary.

My neighbours have had the same thing happen to them.

A neighbourhood group is trying to mobilise residents to not pay until the negotiations under way to find out why our bills have been backdated are resolved.

Valueless

I cannot afford to pay the backdated bill but I am worried that our water supply will be turned off.

Elderly Zimbabwean patient at Parirenyatwa hospital, Harare awaits the arrival of a doctor
Medical care is beyond the financial reach of most Zimbabweans

The problem is that we don't know for sure whether these guys can just cut us off.

I very much agree that something needed to happen regards our country's currency. As long as our cash is valueless it won't help us.

Most people now understand this but the problem is how to end this situation we are in with hyperinflation and the like.

The problem is that although the government is starting to take measures to try and beat the economic downturn, some of the people in the government are actually benefiting from the situation and in turn are fuelling the black market.

They say that these efforts have been made to try to thwart the illegal activities but the unfortunate part is that it won't stop them - they will still continue to do the same thing.

All the people that are feeding on and feeding off the black market need to be arrested.

John, 33, engineer in Harare

The new currency is fantastic.

The new highest denomination note has a thousand times the value of the old highest note; in terms of functionality this makes a huge difference.

Before you were having to carry around a big block of cash, like the size of a loaf of bread.

I went and bought fuel today and just handed over one note
John, Harare

Smaller denomination bills are short now which is a problem if you need change but no doubt more will come into circulation.

It is unlikely that the new currency will curb inflation, as inflation has nothing to do with the number of zeros on a number and everything to do with government policy and investor confidence, which do not seem set to change soon.

The currency changeover doesn't overall affect the economic situation but it does normalise the practicalities of living.

For instance, I went and bought fuel today and just handed over one note, whereas before it would have been a huge wad - an inch or two thick.

I try and be positive about living here and this move has shown that at least the government are trying to do something.

It's a step in the right direction.

Anna, Zimbabwean studying in Canada

As a Zimbabwean trying to pay my university fees this currency conversion and devaluation has derailed my plans as a student abroad.

Illegal Zimbabwean immigrants, atop the Beit Bridge across the Limpopo River, lower others to the ground onto South African soil

My tuition costs 17,000 Canadian dollars (US$15,400) per semester. Before the changeover this was about 1.5bn Zimbabwean dollars which would be 1.5m new Zimbabwean dollars.

But now with the devaluation it costs nearly 3.9m new Zimbabwean dollars.

It is beyond my parent's reach.

My dad works as a supervisor for a manufacturing company and compared to a lot of people, he is paid an alright amount. But his salary is paid in Zimbabwean dollars and with it he has to look after my mum, my sister and my grandparents.

My dad cannot afford to buy foreign currency on the black market and so until now always paid for my fees through the RBZ.

Now he just cannot afford to.

Cheaper option

And now I have to be realistic.

When I started university here in Canada, it seemed like the cheaper option.

For most this recent 60% devaluation has not had an effect at all... the parallel market has become a part of everyday life
Shakeman Mugari
Business reporter

I rejected studying in South Africa because I would not have been allowed to work legally. Work permits for Zimbabwean students, never mind Zimbabweans, are very difficult to obtain.

The deal was that I would have to cover my living expenses myself as my dad could only fund my tuition, which so far I have managed to do by working part-time as an office assistant.

Now though I don't know what I am going to do.

There is no way that I can depend on my dad and there is no way that I can afford to pay for my tuition.

I can't see any way possible for me to continue studying for another semester never mind the three years needed to complete my degree.

I have not had enough money, since I arrived, to pay for an airfare back home.

Now, I can't even go home.




SEE ALSO
Zimbabwe cash switch: Your views
23 Aug 06 |  Have Your Say
Zimbabweans suffer cash chaos
09 Aug 06 |  Africa

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