3 December 2013

Zimbabwe: Cash Shortages - Bank Staff Held Hostage

Photo: Nation
Banks limit daily withdrawals.

THERE was a drama Tuesday afternoon at a commercial bank branch in Mutare when restive depositors held employees hostage, demanding their money as the country's cash shortages continue to worsen.

Angry depositors swamped into the MetBank branch manager's office after spending hours in queues without accessing their deposits.

The manager, identified as Elisha Majengwa, tried to calm the depositors but they would have none of it.

Security guards manning the premises were overpowered and had to call for a back-up from Mutare central police station.

The manager was then escorted out of the banking hall by armed police with irate depositors hot in pursuit.

Business in the central business district came to a halt as people stampeded to catch a glimpse of the visibly shaken manager who was under police escort.

Angry depositors milling around the police station told New Zimbabwe.com that they had been queuing at the bank since morning but failed to access their cash.

They said they were being allowed a paltry $20 withdrawal per day which was not enough to meet their daily needs such as paying rentals and buying food.

Some said they had been served with eviction threats from their landlords due to non-payment of their rents.

"We want our money. The funds are reflecting in our accounts but these people are refusing to pay us. We want to know the reason," said Clemence Rupiya of Hobhouse.

Others claimed they had lost relatives after they failed to access cash to buy medication.

"Our relatives are dying in hospitals while these people are withholding our funds. We want to buy medication," said Mercy Bwawo of Honde Valley who said she has been in the long queue since morning.

Efforts to get comment from the manager or bank staff were fruitless as they remained mum about the goings on at the bank.

For the past two months, long queues have resurfaced in the city due to a liquidity crunch. Some companies have gone for as long as 10 months without paying workers as they cannot access cash due to low business turnout.

Analysts say the country can ease the liquidity crunch by attracting foreign direct investment, boosting exports and creating confidence in the banking sector to attract depositors.

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