ANGRY Allied Bank depositors yesterday turned riotous smashing door glasses and assaulting a bank manager after failing to access their cash at one of the bank’s Harare branches, a sign of the deepening cash shortages gripping indigenous banks in the country.
EVERSON MUSHAVA,CHIEF REPORTER
The Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group was branded Allied Bank last year after Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Obert Mpofu injected $23 million through his investment vehicle Trebo & Kays.
Chaos also erupted at some banks in Bulawayo as the liquidity crunch suffocates mostly indigenous-owned banks in the rush to the festive season.
With just over a week before Christmas, hordes of clients besieged three banks operating in the city — Allied Bank, among others, yesterday desperate to withdraw money, but were disappointed as some of the institutions had run dry.
Witnesses claimed that a group of soldiers, who had been queuing to withdraw their salaries, attacked Allied Bank staff after failing to get the money and were joined by other depositors in the attack.
A security guard at Allied Bank’s Third Street branch had to use teargas to rescue manager, Ephraim Chidhakwa, from the angry depositors, most of them soldiers, police officers and teachers.
The bulk of the soldiers, who got paid last week, claimed that they had failed to withdraw their salaries as the bank had imposed a maximum withdrawal cap averaging $50 per day.
The situation was made worse yesterday with the coming-in of teachers who wanted to withdraw their salaries.
When NewsDay visited the bank’s Third Street branch, pieces of glass were strewn all over the entrance after the depositors smashed it as they stampeded out after a security guard fired teargas to save the manager from incensed soldiers.
According to depositors, all hell broke loose when the bank manager demanded to physically identify the person who had shouted demanding that they be allowed to withdraw all their money.
A teacher from Mt Darwin who refused to be named said the bank manager had been telling queuing depositors that they should
wait a bit longer for the bank to receive its daily allocation and determine how much each depositor could get.
“A man shouted that he wanted all his money. The bank manager demanded to know who had shouted. This is when people became furious and beat him up,” the depositor said.
“The bank manager was rescued by the security guard who fired teargas to disperse the angry depositors.
There was a stampede with people trying to escape the teargas using any exit point available, causing the breaking of door glasses.”
The Mt Darwin teacher said she had been stranded in Harare since schools closed two weeks ago visiting the bank every day to withdraw money to buy fertiliser, but was given a paltry $30 each day.
To make matters worse, she said she would access the money at around 5pm after joining the queue as early as 6am.
As the drama unfolded, frightened bank workers gathered outside.
Allied Bank’s chief executive officer Stephen Gwasira apologised over the mishap and assured clients that the liquidity constraints were being addressed.
“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience emanating from the prevailing cash shortages and assure our valued customers that the bank is making aggressive efforts to address the liquidity constraints. We are confident that these efforts will yield positive results,” Gwasira said.
Serious cash shortages have hit indigenous banks in Zimbabwe.
In Bulawayo, the situation reached boiling point in some instances exposing staff to threats and offensive behaviour.
“We want our money. We have been in the queue for a long time and people are losing patience. A window has been broken as people were pushing each other to gain entrance,” one angry depositor, who refused to be named, said.
Some indigenous banks in Bulawayo resorted to limiting cash withdrawals to a maximum of $200 per person, but this did not go down well with customers who became hostile demanding their money.
Asked if there had been any arrests in connection with the scuffle in the capital yesterday, Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector Tadius Chibanda referred questions to police spokesperson Superintendent Andrew Phiri, who was not picking up calls.
Last month, an indigenous bank branch manager in Mutare had to seek refuge at a police station with angry depositors in hot pursuit, baying for his blood after failing to access their hard-earned cash.