Robbers take advantage of mistrust of the financial system

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ZIMBABWE’s struggling monetary system has led residents to hide money in their homes. But that also makes them targets.

Tariro remembers hearing a sudden knock on his kitchen door, the kind of shuddering. She peeked out the window and saw 10 men armed with crowbars. They wanted to come in.

The 54-year-old ran into her bedroom screaming mbavha, Shona for the thieves, as the men kicked in the door.

“They tied my mouth with a top I wore before swimming and said I had to cooperate or else they would kill me,” said Tariro, who asked to use only his middle name for fear of be attacked again.

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

Tariro believes the thieves sued her because she worked for a non-governmental organization where she earned US dollars. “They thought I had a lot of money in my house,” she said, still shaking at the memory.

His decision to accumulate money stems from Zimbabwe’s crater economy and rapid currency changes over the past two decades that have decimated the country’s monetary system and made money under the bed more acceptable than put it in the bank. Not only has such storage affected the ability of Zimbabweans to set up a savings account, it has also made more and more people the target of theft.

In 2009, Zimbabwe introduced a multi-currency system that allowed residents to use the US dollar, South African rand, and other currencies. But the US dollar, which was the dominant currency, became scarce a decade later and the government reverted to the local currency. Officials introduced a separate account for depositing foreign currency, but all bank balances containing US dollars were converted to Zimbabwean dollars. Almost overnight, people’s money was worth a lot less.

Zimbabweans like Tariro have stopped trusting banks. Fearing sudden changes in policy, many people have started to keep foreign currencies – which depreciate more slowly than the Zimdollar – at home.

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

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government again authorized official foreign currency transactions in March 2020. But residents remain cautious of unpredictable fluctuations. Even those paid by the banking system are suspicious 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 money in the bank. “

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

“I don’t see the point in keeping my money in the bank,” said the 36-year-old. “It can lose value when you think you’re saving money. “

The coronavirus has caused even more economic hardship as closures and reduced travel affect jobs. The Republic of Zimbabwe’s National Police Crime Bureau recorded nearly 3,500 thefts last year. Between January and March of this year, the police had already counted more than 2,300 burglaries.

The Department of State of the United States of America has indicated that the money stuffed in pillows and pockets was a motivation for the thefts. “Criminals have specifically targeted businesses and residences known to house or store large sums of money,” according to an April 2020 security report.

Zimbabwean officials acknowledge the increase in crime but downplay its link to a failing monetary system. Ruth Mavhungu-Maboyi, deputy minister of interior and cultural heritage, attributes the rise in violence to the increasing availability of firearms and the lack of police vehicles. She points to a string of recent arrests – including those of seven suspects in recent burglaries – as signs that authorities are working to tackle crime. But she also insists on the need for residents to trust banks.

“Does keeping your money at home really help?” ” she says. “Instead, it can be stolen. Encouraging people to keep money in banks is a matter of safety.

The rise in crime has not only had financial consequences; he also had psychological ones.

Since the attack, Tariro has found it difficult to trust people.

“My life hasn’t been normal since then,” she says. She rents part of her house to other families, so she doesn’t have to live alone.

She panics when the dogs bark. And she spends the money immediately after getting it because she doesn’t feel comfortable keeping it anymore. —Worldwide press journal


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