Zimbabwean riot police used water cannon on Wednesday to disperse activists protesting at the introduction of “bond notes” in the capital Harare. The protesters fear that the notes could result in uncontrolled money printing and a return to hyperinflation.
Zimbabwe’s central bank released the notes on Monday despite strong resistance from a section of the society.
The southern African country experienced critical shortages of cash in the first quarter of 2016, especially the United States dollar, a situation which led to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to introduce the notes as a corrective measure.
We are currently witnessing one of the biggest scams in history ... Who just prints paper and determines its value?
Youths from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) numbering 20 tried to march through the streets waving placards saying “No to Bond Mugabe” and “No to fake money”, but were met by riot police.
Reuters reports that water cannon salvoes ensued, quickly dispersing the demonstrators. No arrests were reported. Having failed to stop the launch of the bond notes, which many Zimbabweans fear will erode U.S. dollar savings, some people have tried to undermine the physical integrity of the $2 notes and $1 coins.
Although Zimbabwe hopes the bond notes will ease shortages of cash, bank queues lengthened on Wednesday as workers and government employees sought to withdraw monthly salaries.
At independence from Britain in 1980, Zimbabwe was regarded as one of Africa’s most promising prospects. But its economy has nearly halved since 2000 after the violent seizure of white-owned commercial farms and disastrous printing of money.
Mobile phone videos circulating on social media show people undertaking ‘integrity’ tests on the currency rubbing the bright green $2 bond note against a sheet of white paper to leave a green smudge that they say demonstrates the poor quality of the ink and printing. A Reuters experiment revealed similar outcome.
Critics in Zimbabwe’s small but vibrant social media community have pounced on the smudges as symbolic of the real value of the “bollars”. They are officially exchangeable at 1:1 to the U.S. dollar but many people believe they will quickly start to depreciate.
“We are currently witnessing one of the biggest scams in history … Who just prints paper and determines its value?” tweeted ClaudeJrK.
The Reserve Bank has asked the public to report people who deface, disfigure or illegally exchange the bond notes.