Zim bond notes to circulate in August - bank chief

Harare - They've already caused panic in Zimbabwe, but now it appears the much-feared bond notes won't be introduced until the end of August at the earliest, according to reports on Sunday.

The Sunday Mail and the Sunday News, both state-run newspapers, said the notes "will start circulating around August 2016" because of time needed to print and design them. 

But the privately-owned Standard newspaper put the date as October after bank chief John Mangudya reportedly said the bond notes - which are to be Zimbabwe's own version of the US dollar - would take four or five months to print. 

The notes are to be printed in Germany.

Zimbabwe has not had its own currency since 2009, when several years of hyperinflation and excessive banknote printing rendered the local dollar worthless.

It remains to be seen whether this delay - and the confusion over whether the bond notes will appear in August or in October - will allay the fear that has seized many in Zimbabwe following the bank chief's announcement of the bond notes' imminent introduction at the beginning of May. He suggested then that they might enter circulation in just two months.

Bank queues have now resurfaced as locals try to withdraw their US dollars from their accounts as soon as they're paid. The queues were particularly bad at the end of the week and this weekend because those in formal employment have had their salaries deposited into their accounts. 

Most banks are limiting withdrawals, meaning account-holders must queue several times to take out all their cash.

In what will be a blow to the authorities' attempts to restore confidence in the financial sector, well-known local businessman and church leader Shingi Munyeza on Sunday warned Zimbabweans that the country was "now entering a period of possible banking sector crisis".

"Make sure you are not a victim for the second time," he urged in a likely reference to the many Zimbabweans who lost life-savings and investments during the hyperinflation crisis.

In a statement, Munyeza also advised Zimbabweans to "preserve cash in all you do". Mangudya has promised to import more hard currency before the bond notes are introduced, the Sunday Mail said.

Bond notes will not be usable outside Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe's government says outsiders from countries with weaker currencies have been travelling into Zimbabwe to mop up US dollars, fuelling cash shortages.

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