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Zimbabwe Central Bank Pressured To Extend FX Exchange Deadline

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's cabinet Thursday examined the confusion and economic dislocation caused by the central bank's crash program to withdraw all old banknotes and issue a new, redenominated currency by August 21.

Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono has come under heavy pressure to extend the deadline, said one official who was present at the cabinet meeting. Cabinet members noted the tight deadline is problematic for many residents of rural areas which lack both local banking outlets and reliable or affordable transport to larger towns.

The Reserve Bank has deployed mobile units to rural areas. But the chief whip of the ruling party's parliamentary majority reiterated Thursday in an interview with VOA that there are a number of remote areas that cannot be covered in just three weeks.

Elsewhere, Zimbabwe's National Security Council comprising top military and police officials has urged tightened security nationwide citing the risk of riots if Zimbabweans find themselves stuck with worthless bearer notes when the deadline expires.

For their part, central bank officials say the effort to exchange notes has been stymied by the continued issuance of expiring notes by building societies, and corrupt police who have been seizing foreign and domestic currency and goods from citizens.

Acting Information Minister Paul Mangwana told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that while the government supports an extension of the deadline for the currency exchange, it is satisfied with Gono’s monetary overhaul.

Researach Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa said the central bank governor should have allowed much more time for the conversion.

The Law Society of Zimbabwe issued a statement saying that the presidential powers authorizing the confiscation of cash from individuals at road blocks and border points violate the country's constitution. The group also expressed concern at the extension of immunity to state and central bank officials in connection with such seizures.

Law Society human rights council member Perpetua Dube explained the implications of the central bank currency policy to reporter Carole Gombakomba.

More reports from VOA's Studio & for Zimbabwe...