THE immigration department is rejecting payments in bond notes at a time the government is threatening to prosecute retailers who are also refusing the surrogate currency or charging a premium for its use.
In a bid to address crippling shortages of the preferred US dollars, government last November launched the bond notes, decreeing that they had the same value as the American greenback.
Activists protested the move at the time and the market is now showing its own scepticism about the claimed value of the surrogate currency. A three-tier pricing system has since emerged whereby retailers charge a premium for those paying in bond notes.
On Wednesday, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe repeated warnings that retailers would face prosecution over the issue.
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“I am aware of (illegal) activities that are happening. Some of the retailers have a three-tier pricing system; for bond notes, swiping and US dollar. I want to be very clear about this, (it) is illegal,” deputy RBZ head Kupukile Mlambo told business leaders at a meeting in the capital.
“We have not taken any action on anybody, but we have the Bank Use Promotion Act that we can invoke. I really want to encourage retailers doing so to relook into that.
“The last thing we want is to start arresting people. We want a friendly (environment) because this is a contested environment.”
However, NewZimbabwe.com has established that the Tobaiwa Mudede-run immigration department is also rejecting payment for some services in bond notes.
A company official who visited department offices in Harare to renew residency permits for her foreign investor bosses said she was shocked when told she could not pay in bond notes.
“First, I was told that we must now pay $100 to have the permit stamped on each passport, which is a new requirement,” the company executive said, preferring not to be named to protect the identities of her bosses.
“Secondly, they refused payments in bond notes. I was told that I could only pay in US dollars which is ridiculous because it’s near-impossible for one to get these from the banks.
“When I protested, asking why the government was refusing its own money, the immigration officers said they were only following a ministerial directive to that effect.”
Efforts to get a comment from Mudede and Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo were not successful late Wednesday.
However, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesman Jacob Mafume said; “It’s madness that they impose a currency which they (government) do not want to use themselves.
“But then these bond notes are not money. They are a vehicle for theft.”
Outrage over the immigration department’s insistence on US dollar payments for residency permits exploded on social media last month.
Said Natasha Stals Greef on the ZimVine Facebook page; “Im in shock…
“My aunt has just been to the immigration department to have her Zim residents permit stamped and they are refusing payment in bond notes. Like wtf???
“It’s their government that made this paper money and now they don’t want to use it. Sorry for the rant but I just had to…”
One Karen Munyati explained; “Their argument is that immigration fees have always been charged in for ex and so they cannot accept bond notes as they are not forex.”
Susanne Garnett responded; “This is not an immigration fee; this is for Zimbabwe-born people to get a residency stamp purely because they choose to hold a different passport. They don’t do this anywhere else. It’s all about punishment and revenue.
Justine Roberts added; True, but the problem in this instance is that this resident’s sticker *by definition* is for people with foreign passports who are *permanent* residents of Zimbabwe …
“… the vast majority of which have lived here all of their lives, and have no more access to USD than any other Zimbabwean!!
“Of course, they can ask for immigration permits for foreigners who are visiting in USD, but to not accept bond notes from permanent residents is just wrong!
One Regan Lavendale concluded; “The point here isn’t about swiping but about using the bond note which the Government of Zimbabwe stated is LEGAL TENDER & is the same value as the US Dollar!
“I remember some time back that the Reserve Bank Governor saying that all government departments should accept BOND NOTES as LEGAL TENDER!!”