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By Lebo Nkatazo

ZIMBABWE'S central bank on Thursday rolled out new $5 000 and $50 000 bearer cheques in a bid to make life easier for shoppers.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) said the new bills were being "introduced for your (Zimbabweans) convenience."

In a notice, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (BBZ) said the new bearer cheques features would be a “security thread with RBZ on it on it. The Zimbabwe bird watermark with RBZ highlight. Colour shifting on the figure 50 000, turquoises to purple on the $50 000 front.”

In August last year, the central bank introduced a total of 13 denominations of bearer cheques -- one cent, five cents, 10 cents and 50 cents, one dollar, $10; $20; $50; $100, $500; $1,000; $10,000 and $100,000.

People had only three weeks to change their old notes. The exercise, dubbed Operation Zuvarabuda, saw three zeroes being slashed from the old currency in an operation tainted by claims of cash confisications.

All the cents introduced last year have been barely utilised due to the record inflation now approaching 1 600 percent.

At the time of the currency change-over, central bank governor Gideon Gono said he would soon introduce a new currency. He made a similar promise in a newspaper interview last week.

But the decision to release new bearer cheques has quashed any hopes of a new currency.

Zimbabwe first introduced bearer cheques and travellers cheques in 2003.

From 1980 to the 1990, Zimbabwe had cents and banknotes of the following
denominations $2, $5, $10 with the higest denomination being a $20 note. There
was also a $1 made of silver.

When the country's economic decline took root, new higher denomination notes were introduced.

As prices rise, shoppers have once again found themselves forced to carry large stashes of paper cash that often will not fit in purses and wallets.

Gono last month proposed a four-month freeze on all prices and wages starting March 1 in a last-ditch bid to tame inflation. Its still not clear if companies are willing to abide by the freeze.


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