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Zimbabwe Central Bank Grapples With Confusion On Currency Swap

Bankers and consumers alike faced frustration on the second day of the Zimbabwean central bank’s currency overhaul scheme, with new banknotes in short supply and many businesses and individuals refusing old notes for fear of being stuck with them when a 21-day deadline for swaps runs out.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe launched a public education program with one thousand financial officials fanning out across the country to explain the redenomination of the currency and reassure people that the old notes are still legal tender. RBZ Governor Gideon Gono was in Bulawayo Wednesday to meet bankers and consumers to answer questions and bolster confidence.

The central bank also issued a statement prohibiting retail sales of goods worth more than 100 million old Zimbabwe dollars, generating much criticism. The ceiling on sales was meant to prevent black market FX traders from converting currency stashes into negotiable goods. Financial authorities estimate some 45 trillion old dollars are in circulation on the parallel market, about the equivalent of US$180 million.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper said central bank officials in conjunction with financial police recovered billions of dollars stashed in the safes of top retail stores, including TM Supermarket, Mohammed Mussa Wholesalers and Makro.

For perspective on the monetary mess, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to economist Tony Hawkins, a University of Zimbabwe business professor. Zulu also sought the views of Harare-based economist James Jowa.

More stories from VOA's Studio Seven for Zimbabwe