A COIN shortage has hit Bulawayo with supermarkets and retailers resuming to issue out sweets, chocolates and vouchers as change.
The deficit has also hit transport operators hard with commuter omnibus crews and passengers fighting over change particularly during the morning and evening rush hours.
The Matabeleland region has since the adoption of multiple currencies in 2009 appeared spared from coin shortages compared to other cities owing to its proximity to the source, South Africa.
However, of late, coins have disappeared from the market with commuter omnibus crews being hit the hardest since they have no sweets to give to passengers as change like supermarkets.
Commuter omnibus operators charge R6 using a rate of $1 to R12.
At various drop-off points, kombi conductors can be seen daily running up and down asking for change, arguing with passengers demanding their coins.
“Coins are giving us a hard time in our operations. We prefer commuters to pay R6 or dollar for two. If they do not have loose money we end up asking them to leave their contact details to come and collect their change later,” Thabani Dube, a Cowdray Park conductor said.
Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) advocacy officer Clive Mphambela said the availability of coins was determined by the market.
“Banks do not have a role to play on the issue of coins. They (coins) are being brought to the country by the market,” Mphambela said.
In 2011, local banks were forced to repatriate nearly 25 million worth of coins to South Africa. The banks had been holding on to the coins, but found no takers due to resistance from the market.
Plans to import coins from the United States to alleviate the shortage of coins for small denominations collapsed owing to sour relations between Washington and Harare.
At one time, the BAZ made a proposal to the government to mint coins for change to alleviate shortages.
According to the proposal, the coins were to be exchanged on a dollar-for-dollar basis, enabling people to redeem coins for notes should they accumulate large amounts of the resource.
Analysts say the availability of electronic payment systems could alleviate coin shortages, but the lack of infrastructure
is a brickwall.