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Zimbabwe Unveils Z$1000 Note as Leaders Discuss Cabinet


Zimbabwe's central bank has just unveiled a 1,000 Zimbabwe dollar note. This comes only weeks after the bank loped 10 zeros off the currency to make it easier for Zimbabweans to carry out even the most basic transactions without carrying piles of notes around. The introduction of the new note has also coincided with the raising of the daily withdrawal limit to the same amount. Tendai Maphosa reports from Harare that ordinary Zimbabweans don't see the new limit making their lives any easier.

Getting money from the bank in Zimbabwe takes lots of time and patience. When you finally gets to the head of the line, the amount you can withdraw is limited by the central bank in an effort to curb the runaway inflation the country is experiencing.

Until earlier this week, the limit was 500 Zimbabwe dollars, or about $1 U.S. - not even enough to buy a loaf of bread. But starting Thursday the withdrawal limit has been doubled. VOA asked some Zimbabweans who had just made withdrawals if the new limit would make their lives any easier.

"It's far too little, it can only buy one banana today," said one woman.

"You just have to look at the prizes in the shops, that's how you judge if it's enough," said one man. "For a 60-watt light bulb it's about 8,500 dollars now I have just gotten 1,000 dollars so obviously it's not enough."

Another man observed, "I think it's like putting wallpaper on a damp wall, it's gonna come off again very quickly. Now look at the queue outside this bank there's 500 people trying to get a thousand dollars, which buys a loaf of bread, but then how do you get home? You have no money left for transport."

Zimbabweans are devising ways of trying to beat the cash crunch including opening accounts with different banks so they are able to withdraw more money daily.

Most shops also allow people to use their bank cards to pay for their purchases, but they demand cash for certain basic goods. Payment by check is also acceptable in some shops but you pay more than the marked price because by the time your money makes it to the shop's account, the shop owners argue, it will be much less than the face value of the check due to inflation.

Official figures put Zimbabwe's inflation rate at 11 million percent; the highest in the world. More than 80 percent of the workforce is unemployed. Some shops accept U.S. dollars, South African rand or Botswana pula. The central bank earlier this month invited applications for businesses that want to deal in foreign money but the practice is already widespread without the bank's blessing.

All the people VOA spoke to are hopeful the recently signed power-sharing agreement between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition will improve the country's economy.

On Thursday, the three parties were meeting to decide on appointments to the 31-member cabinet. The ruling ZANU-PF party will get 15 cabinet posts, Tsvangirai's party 13 and the other MDC faction three.

A report in the state-controlled daily newspaper The Herald quotes Mr. Mugabe as describing the agreement as a humiliation and he said he intends to remain in control.

The signing of the agreement followed seven weeks of talks that followed the June 27 run-off of the presidential election in which Mr. Mugabe was the sole candidate. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, one of the signers of the agreement, had outpolled Mr. Mugabe in the first round but failed to win enough votes to avoid the run-off.