"Havin' a laugh": Mugabe's secretary insists Zim 'on verge of economic turnaround'

2016-06-01 14:57

Harare - Ignore the bank queues and the panic over the soon-to-be introduced "bond notes". Zimbabwe is actually on the verge of "real economic turnaround", if you believe President Robert Mugabe's chief secretary.

In comments that have provoked sarcasm on social media, where photos of cooking oil being rationed in shops are already circulating, Misheck Sibanda said Zimbabwe would soon be in a better economic shape "than some of our colleague countries who are developing".

Sibanda was quoted as saying: "We are convinced that we are on the verge of real economic turnaround, notwithstanding the difficulties and challenges we have been faced with."

He was speaking during a tour of estates run by the ARDA parastatal in Kadoma. 

Prominent local radio personality Barry Manandi tweeted: "I must be dreaming or they [the Herald] are havin' a laugh!"

Latest signs of distress 

As frustration grows over Zimbabwe's cash shortages, and locals try to empty their bank accounts ahead of the introduction of bond notes (a local equivalent of US dollars) later this year, state media - always the voice of those in the ruling party closest to Mugabe - has been taking a resolutely positive line that few Zimbabweans seem to be buying.

On Tuesday, the Herald daily claimed that businesses were "embracing plastic money", though no businessmen were quoted in the report. It also claimed grain millers "applaud[ed] bond notes", though the miller quoted - Tafadzawa Musarara - was also a political analyst with close links to the ruling party.

In the latest signs of distress in the banking sector, the privately-owned Newsday reported on moves to have weekly withdrawals capped at $500. That will be problematic in a financial system where almost no-one uses plastic money. Institutions and stores don't have the means to instal Point of Sale Systems.

The Daily News reported that the central bank was taking 50% of export proceeds sent into Zimbabwe bank accounts from outside the country.

One of Zimbabwe's leading banks, Standard Chartered, meantime informed its customers that ID checks would be performed outside ATMs "to ensure that only card owners transact". Those in formal employment often send family members to queue for them because accessing cash can take hours.

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