Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has said appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken against Ecobank Zimbabwe and CBZ Bank after two clients withdrew $15 000 and $44 180 respectively from the two banks, way above the weekly withdrawal limit of $300.
Images of the newly issued bank notes and coins in sealed packs, believed to be destined for the parallel market in Harare, went viral on social media on Wednesday, putting a negative dent on the image of the monetary authority and the entire banking system.
In two separate statements yesterday, RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya boldly fingered Ecobank and CBZ, adding that further investigations were being conducted in liaison with the Zimbabwe Republic Police to expose and completely weed out the malpractice.
“The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has taken note of pictures circulating on social media that show recently introduced $2 banknotes in sealed packs, suggesting that the notes are already being traded on the parallel market,” said Dr Mangudya who did not disclose the date and exact time when the concerned transaction was done.
“The bank has conducted investigations on the matter, and the findings are that the banknotes in the circulating pictures emanated from Ecobank.
“Preliminary investigations by RBZ at Ecobank indicate that an amount of ZWL$15 000 was withdrawn by one of their customers. Ecobank, together with their customer, are now assisting the Zimbabwe Republic Police with further investigations on this matter.”
In another statement last night, Dr Mangudya said further to the earlier revelations about Ecobank, it had also come to the RBZ’s attention that there is a picture of a black plastic bin container full of bond coins also circulating on social media.
“We would like to advise the public that this case has been investigated by the bank and it involves a CBZ Bank customer. Investigations by RBZ at CBZ indicated that an amount of ZW$44 180 was withdrawn by one of their customers. In this regard, CBZ Bank together with their customer are now assisting the police with further investigations,” he said.
The issuing of new $2 and $5 notes plus $2 bond coins on Tuesday this week has brought relief to Zimbabweans who had for years endured cash shortages and were now only managing to access it on the parallel market. Dr Mangudya said appropriate disciplinary measures “shall be taken against the two banks, their customers and anyone else who would be found responsible for the malpractice that has brought the apex bank and the entire banking system into disrepute”.
“Such malpractices cannot and should not be condoned,” said the RBZ Governor. He also explained how banks withdraw cash from the central bank.
“The procedure is such that banks transfer the equivalent amount of their cash requirements to the RBZ through the RTGS system. The banks will then collect the cash from the RBZ to their central cash deposits from where they distribute to their branch network,” said Dr Mangudya.
The new notes withdrawal scam has caused anxiety among Zimbabweans amid calls for authorities to ensure the latest cash injection is not manipulated by parallel market peddlers who are making mega profits through selling cash at higher premiums.
Government introduced the new notes to buttress the use of the local currency, which was re-introduced in June this year as part of wider reforms aimed at stabilising the economy. The monetary reforms saw Zimbabwe dumping the multiple currency system, which was in place since February 2009.
The Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services also condemned the withdrawal malpractice.
“Government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is investigating allegations of abuse of newly released bank notes. Cash was collected by banks using their CIT vehicles on Monday. All serial numbers were recorded in the register. The offending banks will be named and severe action taken,” it said through its official Twitter handle