Zimbabwe bond note black market booms across borders


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Garikai operates his business at Park Station, the largest foreign bus terminal in Johannesburg.

“Three months ago I relocated from Zimbabwe to South Africa when I realised bond notes are the new get-rich-quick scheme,” he explains.

Back home in Zimbabwe, winding bank queues are a menace.

Some can stretch for hundreds of metres and many jostle to access the daily limit of $20 in bond note “coins” that banks can dispense.

“When I go to Zimbabwe on holiday I don’t want to waste my time in queues, hence I buy smuggled bond notes here in Johannesburg,” says Maidei, 27, a maths teacher in South Africa, clutching her baby as she prepares to board a Greyhound bus.

Bond note traders receive boxes of fresh bond notes smuggled from Zimbabwe in plastics, facilitated by international bus drivers.

Total arrivals per month can be worth up to $20 000, Garikai claims.

He also says the business is aided from on high.

“Our facilitators are big business persons and influential politicians,” he explains.

The margins are compelling.

For every 1000 bond notes the traders sell in South Africa, customers pay either 15 South African rand or $1.50 in commission.

Maidei frowns over the traders’ high fees but says she has no option.

“Very few retailers in Zimbabwe´s rural areas accept South African rand. Coupled with the misery of bank queues we have no choice but to buy smuggled bond notes here in South Africa,” she says.

Garikai and the four other dealers whom he works with say business is roaring.

“We make 45 percent profit every month in rands and real US dollars from trading these smuggled notes,” he says.

Speculation rackets on bond notes are not limited to South Africa, according to George Guvamatanga, director of Barclays Bank Zimbabwe.

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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