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Large-Denomination Notes Heralded By Zimbabwe Central Bank Fail To Materialize

Though Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono promised in a televised address late Wednesday that he would resolve cash shortages plaguing consumers and businesses by introducing new large-denomination notes, there was no sign of relief Thursday as consumers again lined up at banks in a futile money hunt.

Gono announced the immediate issuance of three new bearer cheques or central bank promissory notes - as distinct from a permanent currency - denominated at $250,000, $500,000 and $750,000 to deal with the effects of roaring inflation.

But Zimbabweans combing the capital and other cities in search of cash the day after Gono's address on state television found no new notes in circulation.

Banks said they had not received the new notes and the central bank said it had sent shipments of the new bearer cheques first to remote rural areas.

Gono informed the country that all $200,000 notes would be taken out of circulation by Jan. 1, after which date they would become worthless. He explained the guidelines for surrendering the expiring notes, making clear that one of his main reasons for calling them in is to crack down on "cash baron" dealers in parallel or black markets.

He tried to sooth the fears of Zimbabweans who remember the chaos and financial losses incurred by many consumers and businesses in the last currency exchange in August 2006, dubbed "Operation Sunrise." But the procedure he described for those holding more than Z$50 million in the notes did not sound particularly agreeable - filling out forms and submitting to questioning by a battery of officials.

Meanwhile, long queues remained in place outside banks as restive customers sought to extract a bit of cash from the financial institutions, which said they were seeing no influx of $200,000.00 bills following Gono’s instructions the previous evening.

Correspondent Derek Moyo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe visited Harare banks on Thursday and told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that he mainly found confusion.

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