It’s a terrible moment of déjà vu for Zimbabweans as another currency looms. For the last few days, in the capital Harare, Zimbabweans have begun lining up outside of banks to get hold of what little cash is in circulation before it’s replaced by bond notes as currency—the latest desperate measure by the cash-strapped government.
“I am supposed to be home with my family but here I am spending the night in a bank queue for $50, which I am not guaranteed to get,” Tapiwa Mashingaidze told Quartz. The 33-year-old farmer traveled 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) from Harare, to buy seed and fertilizer, but didn’t make it to the front of the line before the bank closed. So he stayed on the sidewalk, all night, hoping for better luck tomorrow.
Zimbabweans don’t trust the banks, and so will not deposit what money they do have, exacerbating the cash shortage. Some banks have limited the individual withdrawal limit to as little as $20 a day. Still, some would rather get what they can, and then find a spot in the line right afterward and wait for the next day say they can withdraw some more.
Mary Chirandu, 29, said she was lucky enough to get $50 of the $750 still in her account. Chirandu is desperate to get her money before the bond notes are in circulation. Like many others, she’s convinced the new notes will derail the economy even further.
“If there was a way to get all my money out, I would do it even for a fee,” said Chirandu, who is self-employed.
To ease liquidity shortages, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe plans to print bond notes as currency that are meant to hold the same value as the U.S. dollar, but that has only caused further panic, triggering withdrawals and longer lines. Since the May announcement, the reserve bank has gone on a public education drive to allay fears. What little consolation the campaign brought was undone by uncertainty about who exactly would print the notes.
“The increase of uncertainty over the impact of these bond notes to the Zimbabwean economy and fears we could see a repetition of 2009’s hyperinflation bodes ill for the economy across the board,” said Alisa Strobel, a senior economist at IHS Global Insight, a risk and analysis firm.
Zimbabweans have faced a currency crisis since 2009, when spiraling hyperinflation made everyone a billionaire and left the Zimbabwe dollar worthless. The government introduced a multi-currency system using the U.S. dollar, South African rand and most recently Chinese Yuan. But Zimbabweans prefer the dollar’s strength. Dealing in dollars has not made life simpler for Zimbabweans, bringing with it a high cost of living.
There is a lighter side to the bond notes panic, though. Zimbabweans have begun to prefacing anything that is temporary with the word “bond,” reports South African news site News24. So temporary teachers are “bond teachers” and ground soy meat is now known as “bond meat.”