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Zimbabwe Currency Operation Seen As Success, Albeit Tarnished

Economists and analysts are giving Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono a passing grade for the three week currency conversion drive that concluded yesterday with expiration of a deadline for the exchange of old bearer cheques for new notes - but noted the dislocation and distress the operation caused.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce President Luxon Zembe said that although many in the country lost money unnecessarily due to unlawful police confiscations of expiring currency held over relatively low central bank ceilings, businesses will be better off with the new currency with three fewer zeroes than the old one.

Zembe said the cumbersome old notes, whose use sent ordinary transactions into the millions and billions of Zimbabwe dollars, caused system failures while the massive volume of notes needed to buy everyday articles resulted in lost productivity.

Economist John Robertson said that while many were cheated while turning in their savings, all will find it easier to conduct transactions with the new bank notes.

Economist David Muphamadzi also acknowledged flaws in the money swap program, but told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he considered the operation to have been a success on a macroeconomic basis.

Elsewhere, some 114 members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, an activist group, were still in police custody after being arrested on Monday for protesting the way that the money exchange program was carried out. Lawyer Simbarashe Chivaura, lawyer for the detained activists, said 13 women with small children and 26 juveniles under the age of 18 years were released to lawyers pending arraignment Wednesday.

Chivaura said those in jail face charges of illegally demonstrating.

WOZA founder Jenni Williams said authorities violated civil rights of Zimbabweans in searching their vehicles and their persons in search of caches of currency, and in harassing people during the currency conversion drive. She also said the central bank failed to address the economic problems that most Zimbabweans are facing.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...