At a time when most Zimbabweans are hard pressed by the ailing economy which has been fuelled by a serious cash crisis, most kombi operators and small retail shops have started rejecting the small bond coins saying they have become invaluable.
A snap survey by 263Chat revealed that most kombi operators and downtown retail shops no longer accept the 5 and 10 cent bond coins because they are no longer valued on the ever unreliable monetary exchange market.
At Copacabana Bus Terminus, some rank marshals could be heard telling the would be passengers that they would not be accepted if they had the brown coins for bus fare.
Simon Makuwa, a kombi driver, said the current money market will not allow them to accept the small coins as they are “generally” unacceptable on the market.
“When we go to buy fuel, they no longer accept those silly coins. They do not even want the 25 cent coin but because we understand the plight of our passengers, we are being sincere enough to accept them. However, we will not be accepting anything smaller than that,” he told this publication.
Unbeknown to them, however, is that it is illegal to reject any form of currency as prescribed under the SI 32 of 2019 which defines the word “currency” as including the new RTGS dollars in their electronic and bond-note form.
Bond coins were introduced by the RBZ in 2014 to ease the problem of change in United States dollars.
By December 2017, the Central Bank said $331,94 million worth of bond notes and coins were in circulation.
The bond coins were denominated in 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents and 25 cents. The coins were brought into circulation through the local banks.
At the time of introduction, the coins were equivalent to the value of US cents.
It was reported soon after the release of the coins on the market that street vendors, commuter bus operators and fuel service stations were rejecting the coins, insisting that their customers use US dollars to settle for goods and services.
However, since the supply of the greenback has dwindled over the past years, bond notes and coins have been the only available currency although, in February, the government introduced the RTGs, a mobile money transaction, to ease cash woes.
Consequently, both the bond notes and coins have lost value against the USD on the black market as the cash crisis continues to take a toll.
This latest development will come as a slap in the face of suffering masses.
Several small retail shops on the outskirts of Harare Central Business District, are no longer accepting the bond notes as they argue that they stock their shops using the USD.
“I cannot be accepting bond notes when I get orders from outside the country. I pay using the USD and for me to accept the bond, that would mean a loss. I will have to buy the USD on the market and to be honest, the prevailing black market rates are not sustainable,” said Rudo Muchenga, a small scale trader in Harare.
There are two exchange rates in Zimbabwe. The official and the black market rate. The difference between these is sometimes vast.
The government controls the official rate. The black market rate is the rate used on the streets and is the more realistic value of the Zimbabwe currency which the struggling citizens have to use to access the greenback.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week hinted that there will be a return of the Zim Dollar before year-end to alleviate the cash shortages.