Harare — Some Zimbabweans were able to withdraw US dollars from automated teller machines this week for the first time in about a year, as hard currency started trickling back into the economy following Robert Mugabe’s ouster as president.
Banks stopped restocking ATMs about a year ago as a severe cash shortage restricted access to dollars, which are accepted as legal tender in the country. Cash withdrawals were allowed over the counter, but limited first to $50 per customer, then to $20.
Even so, lenders generally ran out of cash soon after opening, forcing thousands of cash-hungry Zimbabweans to sleep in queues outside banks overnight in the hope of getting their hands on banknotes. The country primarily uses the dollar for business transactions after outlawing its own currency in 2009.
"We’re seeing signs of renewed confidence in the economy since the inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa as president," Willard Manungo, Zimbabwe’s finance secretary, said in a telephone interview from the capital, Harare.
Zimbabwe needed to "ride on the readiness of the new political dispensation to move forward", he said.
In his inauguration speech on November 21, Mnangagwa said turning around the economy and ending cash shortages would be the new government’s priority.
Zimbabwe’s economic output has halved since 2000, which Mnangagwa attributed to "policy failures" under Mugabe.
SA’s Standard Bank Group, the UK’s Standard Chartered and Zimbabwe-listed CBZ Bank are among lenders operating in Zimbabwe. None responded on Wednesday when Bloomberg News sought comment.