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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 December 2007, 14:51 GMT
Zimbabwe woe as banks stay shut
A Father Christmas waits for a photo opportunity with children in Harare on Monday
Harare Father Christmas - but there is little cheer for many in Zimbabwe
Banks in Zimbabwe failed to open on Christmas Day, despite earlier pledges from the central bank governor.

Instead, long lines of Zimbabweans desperate for local currency queued at the few machines dispensing cash.

On top of rampant inflation, mass unemployment and shortages of fuel and basic goods the country is now suffering shortages of bank notes.

The shortage remains despite the introduction of higher-denomination notes last week.

Empty-handed

On Monday the central bank's governor, Gideon Gono, said banks would remain open on Christmas Day and Boxing Day to dispense cash after the new notes failed to cut long bank queues.

But reports from the capital Harare on Tuesday said the banks were closed, leaving customers empty-handed and forcing many to join the lines at cash machines instead.

Just spoke to my mother, it's heart breaking for me to send them money from here in Canada and they're unable to cash it anywhere
Tafadzwa, Toronto

"I was hoping to find a shorter queue since it's Christmas, but it seems everyone has come out," Tawanda Moyo told Reuters news agency.

Ms Moyo said she was a teacher trying to get money to buy passage home to the countryside for Christmas.

"After a year in which the struggle to survive got harder, one expected to rest through Christmas, not to be queuing for hours," Ms Moyo added.

State media reported on Monday that the central bank had put another Z$20 trillion (worth about US$667m at the official exchange rate, or US$10m at the black-market rate) into circulation by introducing the new notes, Reuters reported.

Long queues at banks in Harare on Monday
Long queues for cash have become a common sight

But only a fraction of the existing cash in circulation is in the formal economy - the majority is in the black economy.

Mr Gono blames the currency shortages on foreign-exchange currency dealers, the so-called "cash barons", and Zimbabweans are being urged to report anyone flouting currency exchange laws.

Zimbabwe has the highest level of inflation in the world at more than 8,000%.

Critics of President Robert Mugabe accuse him of allowing the economy to go to ruin but he has remained defiant, blaming the problems on a Western plot to oust him from power.


Are you planning to spend your Christmas in a bank queue? How are you coping with the cash shortage? Let us know using the form below.

Your comments:

I have got rid of the Z$200 000 notes already, and I do not have enough cash in the bank anyway to need to spend time in a queue. The cash shortage is just an extension of my usual poverty, so I am coping as Zimbabweans always do: I make a plan. I will be spending Christmas at home, with my family - not at the bank.
Tafadzwa, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Just spoke to my mother, it's heart breaking for me to send them money from here in Canada and they're unable to cash it anywhere. They'll starve this Christmas I'm sure. Mugabe has broken my heart
Tafadzwa, Toronto

Why are we still using cash? Why have the retailers and banks not set up EPOS machines to allow us to use our ATM cards in shops? What is the point of having a Visa electron or Mastercard sticker on my ATM card if I cannot use these facilities in shops? Gono has done a good thing but it is time we looked at cash as being out of date when we can do shopping electronically. Maybe it is just in Zim because no-one is really serious about doing things anymore that the obvious solution is not looked at? I do not know.
Chegutu Chinotimba , Chegutu Zimbabwe

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