Harare (New- Ziana) –The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been urged to also distribute foreign currency to local banks for citizens to easily access it rather than channeling it all to Bureaux de Change which are being overwhelmed.
The RBZ in September last year licensed some bureaux de change to sell foreign currency, mostly United States dollars, to ordinary walk-in customers in an effort to promote financial inclusion and access to forex for small value transactions.
Members of the public wishing to buy foreign currency can approach any registered bureau de change, and upon production of the national registration identity card, they can buy the prescribed maximum amount of US$50 per week.
They buy the forex at the official RBZ ruling auction exchange rate ($II6.6500 this week) plus a commission of 10 percent, which comes to $126.6500, a significantly lower price than the black market rate of around $200 to the greenback.
The intervention by the RBZ came on the backdrop of a widening gap between the official exchange and black market rates, making it difficult for ordinary citizens to afford small value transactions that require hard currency.
Previously there were no provisions for the general public, especially those seeking to do domestic transactions in forex, without passports or receipts for external payments, to purchase US dollars from bureaux de change, resorting only to the parallel market.
Despite the noble intentions of the RBZ, the high demand for the cheap money has seen the bureau de change being overwhelmed, resulting in clients resorting to sleeping in queues to increase chances of being served the following day.
Some corrupt officials at the bureau de change are also taking advantage of the situation to demand bribes of up to US$5 for US$50 and US$10 for US$100 from clients for them to jump the queues and access the forex.
In interviews, prospective clients told New Ziana that the policy of allocating forex to bureax de change was not working and should be revisited.
“The RBZ should also distribute the forex to our banks so that we do not all converge at bureaux de change where we are spending the whole night in queues and at the end we get nothing,” said Tanaka Mushore who was in a queue to purchase some money.
Concerns were also raised at the potential of the bureau de change being super spreaders of Covid-19 as preventive protocols were not being followed.
“It is better for people to purchase forex from their banks to decongest the bureaux to avoid the spread of the virus,” said another prospective client who declined to be named.
“l slept here and was at the front of the queue but have just been told that the money is finished. Surprisingly l saw one of the officials calling his relative who was not even here to come and collect some money. It is so painful,” said a visibly distraught Panganai Fundira from Mabvuku.