THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) mopped up $35 trillion of the phased-out bearer cheques under an operation meant to nab speculators, blamed for ruining the country’s economy, information from the central bank revealed.
The cash ret
urned to the central bank amounts to 78% of the $45 trillion that had been in circulation, indicating that dealers and speculators could have been left holding $10 trillion that remained unaccounted for when the old family of bearer cheques was phased out on August 21 to make way for new currency.
In a public notice, central bank governor Gideon Gono said the $10 trillion had “been trapped into the wilderness of underground markets either inside the country or doing business overtime outside our boarders. This represents 22% of our currency that is missing from our radar”.
Gono declared during his July 31 monetary policy review that August 1 marked the dawn of a new era in the fight against inflation, launching currency reforms he said would inhibit speculation and bring the country “some stability and convenience”.
“All of us would like the sun to set on the dark, speculative world of trading, cash hoarding and skyrocketing inflation so many of us have been conditioned to,” Gono said during his monetary policy review on July 31.
He set August 1 to 21 as the transition period for the phasing out of the old bearer cheques, setting out tough conditions for deposits that were aimed at flushing out speculators holding huge sums of money which they could not account for..
The old bearer cheques were phased out under currency reforms entailing the replacement of old bearer cheques, an equivalent of bank notes, with new bearer cheques with three zeros removed.
Gono has warned that the central bank will soon introduce a new currency and little notice will be given in phasing out bearer cheques in circulation.
In his public notice reflecting on the project, Gono said police and the central bank had “netted a total of 9 320 cases with a value of $1,4 trillion whose owners could not satisfactorily account for” funds they were either moving or trying to deposit into the banking system.
“Anti-money laundering laws will be involved and those unable to acquit themselves will face the full wrath of the law,” Gono said.
Economists said while the amount of money that failed to come back into the system was significant, it was unlikely this would have any effect on money supply levels.