October 20, 2021

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Thieves exploit distrust in the financial system

HARARE, ZIMBABWE – Tariro remembers hearing a sudden knock on his kitchen door, one that makes you shiver. He looked through the window and saw 10 men armed with iron crowbars. They wanted to enter.

The 54-year-old ran to her bedroom shouting “mbavha”, Shona for thieves, as the men broke down the door.

“They tied my mouth with a top I wore before taking a bath and said I should cooperate, or they would kill me,” says Tariro, who asked to use only her middle name for fear of being caught again. aim.

They found $ 700 in his church uniform, as if they knew exactly where to look. Then they left.

Tariro believes the thieves came after her because she worked in a non-governmental organization and earned US dollars. “They thought I had a lot of money in the house,” she says, still trembling at the memory.

His decision to hoard money stems from the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy and rapid currency changes over the past two decades that have decimated the country’s monetary system and made it more palatable to keep money under the bed than to bank it. Not only has this accumulation affected the ability of Zimbabweans to grow a savings account, but it has also made an increasing number of people the target of robberies.

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In 2009, Zimbabwe introduced a multi-currency system that allowed residents to use the US dollar, South African rand and other currencies. But inflation has risen so much that, a decade later, the government has reverted to the local currency. Officials introduced a separate account for depositing foreign currency, but all bank balances that contained US dollars were converted into Zimbabwean dollars (ZWL). From one day to the next, people’s money was worth a lot less.

Zimbabweans like Tariro have stopped trusting banks. Fearing further policy changes, many people have begun to keep their foreign currency at home, which depreciates more slowly than the ZWL.

“There is no incentive to keep money in the bank,” says Farai Mutambanengwe, founder and executive of the Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Zimbabwe, a lobbying organization that promotes market access.

As a measure for the pandemic, the government resumed allowing official foreign currency transactions in March 2020. But residents remain wary of unpredictable fluctuations. Even those who pay through the banking system are wary of it. Some prefer to buy foreign currency on the black market to preserve the value of their money.

“There is no incentive to keep the money in the bank.” Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises of Zimbabwe

Harrison Dumba, who works as a chef at a local restaurant, claims to be paid in local money by bank transfer, but immediately buys US dollars on the black market because they don’t lose value as quickly.

“I don’t see the benefit of keeping my money in the bank,” says the 36-year-old. “It can lose value while you think you are saving money.”

The coronavirus has caused even further economic hardship, as blockages and reduced travel impact jobs. The National Criminal Police Bureau of the Republic of Zimbabwe recorded nearly 3,500 robberies last year. Between January and March of this year, the police had already counted more than 2,300 burglaries.

The US State Department has cited money tucked in pillows and pockets as a reason for the robberies. “Criminals have specifically targeted businesses and residences known to house or store large sums of money,” according to an April 2020 security report.

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Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

Tariro examines the goods damaged by the robbers in their search for money.

Zimbabwean officials acknowledge the rise in crime, but downplay its connection to a troubled monetary system. Ruth Mavhungu-Maboyi, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Cultural Heritage, attributes the wave of violence to the growing availability of weapons and the lack of police vehicles.

He points to a series of recent arrests, including those of seven suspects in recent burglaries, as signs that authorities are working to stem crime. But it also emphasizes the need for residents to trust banks.

“Does keeping money at home really bring anything?” she says. “Instead, it can be stolen. Encouraging people to keep money in banks is a question of security. “

The rise in crime has not only had financial consequences; he had the psychological ones. After the assault at his home, Tariro finds it difficult to trust people.

“My life hasn’t been normal since then,” he says. She has rented her house to other families so she doesn’t have to live alone. Panic when dogs bark. And he spends money right away because he no longer feels comfortable saving it.

[ https://globalpressjournal.com/africa/zimbabwe/robbers-prey-mistrust-financial-system/ https://d26toa8f6ahusa.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/30214746/a-quiet-place-part-2-bigs-16.pdf