Cash shortages remained general in Zimbabwe on Thursday despite assertions by the central bank that it had the situation under control, and the crisis worsened in many locations as Zimbabweans holding hard currency turned to the black market.
Sources in Harare reported long lines at all banks, and said Stanbic Bank ran out of cash late in the day. Financial institutions were said to be limiting withdrawals to Z$20 million, well short of the Z$50 million limit set by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Similar conditions were reported in Bulawayo was similar - banks allowed customers to withdraw only $30 million. Local sources said the crisis seems to be arising from the inability of banks to meet high demand for currency as commodities prices soared.
Zimbabwean consumers and businesses turned to the parallel or black market which the central bank has denounced to fulfill currency requirements, despite a premium for local currency which has driven the exchange rate to Z$1.9 million to the U.S. dollar for bank notes from a rate of more than Z$4 million before the crisis flared.
Harare correspondent Thomas Chiripasi told reporter Patience Rusere that sources in the financial sector alleged that some bank staff were diverting cash to the parallel market through illicit transactions.
The central bank's credibility was under assault following reversals of policy including its extension of the date of expiration of Z$200,000 bearer cheques that were due to expire Monday before Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono extended their life.
The central bank also lifted a requirement it had earlier imposed obliging all electronic transfers to be documented by invoices, virtually paralyzing legitimate transactions.
Economist Eric Bloch, an advisor to the Reserve Bank, said the monetary authority has been obliged to make a number of policy changes to respond to the evolving situation, but voiced confidence the institution will resolve the immediate crisis.