LESS than a week after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) unilaterally banned all mobile money cash-in, cash-out and cash-back transactions – before quickly backtracking, the central bank has once again pulled yet another shocker. This time around, it reportedly intends to raid individual nostro accounts of people who work for exporting companies and earning their dues in foreign currency with effect from today. The RBZ has banned all foreign currency withdrawals by the targeted individuals and they have been told to start transacting the forex into local currency. We had hoped that this piece of information is just like all those social media pranks that would soon pale into a hoax.
But lo and behold, this may indeed be true. God forbid, because this move will definitely worsen our situation and dampen investor and the affected individuals’ moral in a very big way. Was it not only a few months ago that the very same monetary authorities told us that people with money in nostro accounts need not panic? What has changed since then to warrant the RBZ to want to start forcing exporting companies’ workers, who are being paid in foreign currency not to withdraw foreign currency, but instead should convert their money into the country’s increasingly worthless dollar that is losing value everyday having so far, since June, weakened by 135% to the greenback? If the RBZ is, indeed, going to have its way on this one, what will stop it from henceforth raiding other nostro accounts and forcing people to convert their foreign currency savings into Zimbabwe dollars?
The latest and yet another knee jerk policy serves to confirm that the RBZ is now a master of double-speak, given what it told us when it re-introduced the Zimdollar in June, a decade after the local currency was mauled and rendered useless by hyperinflation.
“Funds in all these (nostro) accounts listed in Table 1 above will retain their foreign currency status and shall continue to be utilised for the settlement of international transactions. In cases where the holder of such an account intends to settle domestic transactions, they shall be required to liquidate their foreign currency account balances to the interbank on a willing seller, willing buyer basis,” said the RBZ then. So what has forced the RBZ to now renege on the willing-seller, willing-buyer mantra? We can only postulate that the country’s foreign currency reserves are virtually no more and the RBZ is now busy targeting soft targets, such as the exporting companies workers’ accounts to shore up government’s foreign currency coffers. This development — bordering on ultra-desperation, is sad, to say the least and will only worsen our plight as a nation. This threatens to snuff out all the little goodwill that may still be out there.
While the RBZ governor, John Mangudya has assured that “free funds from diaspora remittances are not subject to the provisions” of the latest move, the diaspora should be forgiven if they are spooked by this. Past experience has taught Zimbabweans that government will turn right while indicating left, or even make a U-turn.