Bulawayo residents have welcomed the move by commuter operators to re-align their United States dollar exchange rates to the South African rand with the prevailing market rate.
The Bulawayo Public Transporters’ Association resolved to adjust the rate from the 1:7 its members have been using for the past two years to the current 1:8. The rand has been losing ground against the US dollar, but businesspeople, including commuter omnibus operators, had stuck to the old rate. Most businesses last week adjusted the rate to 1:8,50. City residents said the move was a welcome relief.
“Under the 1:7 rate, we effectively lost a rand for each dollar whenever we paid in US dollars and received our change in rand,” a resident said.
“That amounts to nearly 100 rands a month.”
Residents also called on other transport operators to follow suit in adjusting the exchange rate.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents’ Association co-ordinator Rodrick Fayayo said people in the region had been disadvantaged by the skewed exchange rate.
While most employees get their salaries in dollars, use of rands is also widespread due to the close proximity of the city to South Africa and the influence of thousands of Zimbabweans from the Matabeleland region working in South Africa,” he said.
The rand and the US dollar compete as legal tender in Bulawayo, giving rise to the problem of cross-rates — which has often been characterised as giving leeway for transport operators and other traders to fleece the public through altering prices and exchange rates.
Economists have previously called upon the government to ensure that all business operators stick to daily international exchange rates.
Zimbabwe has been using a basket of foreign currencies after it scrapped the local currency in 2009. The US dollar and the rand are the most used currencies.