Chaos as Zimbabwe switches to new currency

HARARE, Aug 22, 2006 (AFP) – Zimbabweans struggled to offload soon-to-be worthless cash on Monday as chaos and confusion prevailed ahead of a midnight deadline to convert to a new currency aimed at combating galloping inflation. Banks extended their working hours to cater to crowds who came to dispose of their old notes while others went on shopping sprees in Harare supermarkets and shops which were still accepting the old currency.

“We would have normally closed two hours ago but we are keeping our doors open as long as we have people coming in,” a teller at a bank in Harare’s main shopping mall said, as crowds stood patiently in line to hand in the old bearer cheques.

“We are trying to make sure that our clients don’t suffer losses as a result of the (currency) changeover so we will remain open until the queues are cleared.”

Others went on shopping sprees at outlets accepting the old money.

“I am buying all these things but I don’t really need them now,” said Malvin Pachirera, a businessman, carting a trolley filled with groceries at a leading store.

“I would rather buy these things than lose all my money when it expires today.”

In a move aimed at fighting runaway inflation, Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank (RB