The Sunday Mail
“I want my change, not sweets. I can use it to buy essentials like tomatoes and onions at the vegetable market. What you guys are doing is unfair,” fumed Mai Panashe in a supermarket last week.
The shortage of small United States (US) dollar denominations on the market has brought a few challenges for both traders and consumers despite easing the cash crisis.
While higher denominations are readily available, there is a shortage of smaller notes and coins for change.
It appears consumers are bearing the brunt of it all.
They are being driven off-budget by traders forcing them to round-off their transactions to avoid the change hurdle.
For instance, when one purchases a loaf of bread that costs 68 cents, they are either forced to get a carrier bag, sweets, or any other small item to clear change.
The situation is worsened by some business people that have opted to trade in the hard currency exclusively, a violation of the Finance and Economic Development ministry directive that stipulates that both local and foreign currencies should be used.
The currencies should be complementing each other, pegged on prevailing auction rates, in the process addressing the change crisis.
Mr Kennedy Kuvarega who runs a printing and stationery business, confirmed all was not well.
“Our operations are suffering. Potential customers often bring high denominations like US$5, US$10 and US$20 notes for transactions as low as a US$1 or much less and it complicates everything,” said Mr Kuvarega.
Marondera-based mechanic Mr Derick Mutemasango said it was now not unusual to fail to buy something to eat while you have money.
“You need to have a loose dollar (US) for you to get lunch, otherwise you die of hunger,” he said with a chuckle.
“With the higher US dollar denominations, you should be prepared to wait long for change or risk leaving it behind for collection later. This, however, comes with challenges as devious retailers will try to dupe you.”
Innovative businesses have resorted to using tokens or keeping change records to guarantee smooth transactions.
But the difficult lot are at times prepared to wait for long for their dues, with harsh words being thrown in-between out of frustration.
“It is something that has become a headache for us especially when your product is on demand. If banks could release notes of smaller denominations especially the US$1 and US$2 notes, it could help us boost our businesses,” notes Mr Bako.
Bankers Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Ralph Watungwa weighed in.
“The US dollars are imported and we do not produce them here. The economy was not prepared for us to be transacting with them exclusively resulting in these challenges. Thus, the public and traders should also accept local currency. It is not the banks’ problem, but a market requiring a service which is not there,” he said.
Confederation Retailers Association of Zimbabwe President, Mr Denford Mutashu noted the need for harmony between traders and customers.
“The clearest indication is that cash is not circulating. Change has become a nightmare as consumers refuse to be given change in local currency if they buy using foreign currency,” he said.
“We need to address this albatross by aligning the economy. Business and the general transacting public should embrace both local and foreign currency as the challenges are self-made.
“The informal sector is also in the habit of rejecting notes and coins hence the challenges we now face. We need to promote interchangeability between the local and foreign currency,” Mr Mutashu said.