So on Sunday, a day before the official arrival of the bond notes we got to see sneak previews. Images of the Bond notes made the rounds on WhatsApp and other social media the day before they were due on the market. These were photographs taken in what seemed to be a bank vault and we later found out that it was a vault from POSB. This has not been the first time that Zimbabweans entrusted with information decided to share it on social media and it is becoming quite the unprofessional habit. So how on earth does it become a good thing that there were consequences for this?
We learnt about the consequences of those actions the next day. On Bond note launch day (or #Day0 as I am calling it) local newspapers headlined with news of a half a million dollar fine for POSB. We also learnt that two employees believed to have leaked the images had lost their jobs. While we can all be sad for those who lost their jobs in the current economic state, there is some good that will come out of this. I’m sure you’ll agree.
A good number of people have their reservations about the bond notes as it is. A lot of Zimbabweans feel like they have been here before. The truth is that while we have been in similar situations and while we may want to know how we got here, the current situation is one where there is very little cash in the market. The bond notes in the few days they have been around have really lessened the strain. The fact that they currently have a highest denomination of $2 is good. We need to get out of the mindset of panicking and withdrawing all of our money. If we learn to take the money we need and rely on plastic money for the rest we will be safe.
I have diverted enough. Back to the POSB fine and how that is a good thing for the economy. POSB received a $500K fine and two people were fired and somehow I am saying that is great for the economy. Not good. Great! Economically, the worst nightmare to any form of currency is Consumer Confidence. The less the user’s confidence, the less they want it. The less they want it, the more it is likely to fall to the forces of supply and demand. Soon, the money changers and their illegal mobile bureau de changes would be back in their white garments. The horror!
The users need to feel that the currency (or pseudo-currency in our case) is protected. We need to feel that by using it we are not setting ourselves up for a fall. We don’t want a fool me thrice scenario. We need to feel that the system cannot be easily manipulated before giving in to it. Confidence stems from belief that a program is implemented for the benefit of the people. Anything otherwise will bring about suspicion.
I feel like the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe did exactly that on Monday. In my view by Fining POSB, the RBZ gained some confidence from some of us. Certainly from me. This is how I see it: if they will crack down on an individuals and organisations who try to take advantage of the bond notes, then it will help. Personally, the feeling I got after seeing the leaked images was “Oh my God! Can people just do this?” As Zimbabweans we need to feel that the process from print to distribution is a serious one with no loop holes and no idiots taking selfies with millions worth of money inside a bank vault!
If the same actions can be taken against any registered organisations who attempt to create a scenario where the bond notes are less desirable or we lose confidence in them. Fines all around says me. We need the stability in cash flow for our day to day living. For the families who purchase bread every morning, commute to work. Cash is important.
At the same time, the ultimate promise we need is that when the retailers who supply us need to restock they have access to US dollars. A lot of limits are coming up on the online use of our money as individuals; it can only make you worry and hope that the same isn’t true for retail. If that happens, shortages could be around the corner.
The most important thing is that we play our part. The more you shun the bond notes, the more power you give the few who may have them. Next thing we’ll have an exchange rate for bond notes versus US dollars; and that doesn’t even make sense because the Bond notes are not a currency that can work outside. While we are here, as long as it has a 1:1 valuation let us make our lives easier and use the bond notes.