New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: Mukuru Struggles to Pay Out Transfers

RIOT police had to be called in to quell disturbances in Masvingo on Tuesday as hundreds of people vented their anger after failing to access funds transferred through Mukuru.com.

Business temporarily came to a halt at the local offices of the money transfer agency after scores of angry clients started clashing with security personnel having failed to access their money.

Most said they had spent all day in long queues without being served and ended up going home empty-handed.

Similar problems were also evident at the local BancABC and CABS branches which also house Mukuru.com agencies.

Some of the clients said they had come from surrounding rural districts and joined long queues as early as 6am hoping to access their funds in time to do some Christmas shopping.

"My son works in South Africa and he sent me money to buy groceries for his two children that I am looking after," said one elderly woman who had travelled from Zaka.

"I had to borrow money for bus-fare from my neighbours hoping I would repay them when I return but, since morning, I'm still waiting and there has been no explanation."

Efforts to get a comment from the branch manager were fruitless as he was said to be out of office.

However, officials from the agency said they had been overwhelmed by business because Monday was a public holiday, meaning clients only had Tuesday to get their money.

"This crisis has been worsened by the fact that Monday was a public holiday. Money is there to cater for every client but we could not cope with the numbers that came today," said the official who asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press.

The few who managed to access their money said they slept on city pavements on Monday night so they could be among the first to be served.

"We slept at the entrance and by 4 am the queue already had over a 100 people and we only received our money around lunch-time," said Tapiwa Dube.

He said he was told that the liquidity crunch affecting most banks in the country had also hit the money transfer agency.

Some local banks, among them Allied Bank and Metbank have struggled to meet depositor demands with clashes reported between clients and security personnel at branches in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare in recent days.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last week said he had secured a $100 million facility from a regional bank which he hoped would help ease the liquidity problems in the economy.

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