ZIMBABWEANS on Monday welcomed the reduction in bank charges by local banks but many said the new fees set by the central bank were still too high.
Following a public outcry over what they termed as exorbitant charges on withdrawals, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) on Sunday moved to reduce the levies in what the apex bank said would encourage more locals to bank their monies with formal institutions.
The bank charge furore had been made worse in the past few months when financial institutions started imposing withdrawal limits which inevitably meant more visits to banking halls by the public, culminating into additional costs for the banking public.
At the central bank’s behest, local banks on Sunday finally revised their charges downwards.
The new charges have been pegged at 1 percent of the amount being withdrawn via Automated Teller Machines (ATM)and 1,25 percent over the counter.
According to the schedule, depositors are now charged 20 cents for withdrawing an amount of $20 and 25 cents if one is withdrawing the same amount over the counter; 50 cents for a $50 amount withdrawn through ATM and 63 cents over the counter.
Depositors will now incur $1 for a $100 amount withdrawn via ATM and 25 cents more if they did this over the counter.
Before the new charges were introduced, depositors incurred between $1,50 and $2,50 in bank withdrawal charges. Some went up to $5,50 depending on the banking institution.
But locals on Monday felt the new bank charges were still too high for a country in which depositors visit their banking institutions more than often to access their monies.
“The bank charges are still too high considering that I am still charged $5 per month without even visiting the banks,” said one Itai Maweni, an account holder with a local bank on Monday.
“The cash crisis that is still prevailing also means I still have to incur more costs as banks continue to limit the amount of money I can withdraw in a day. I feel there is not really much to be excited about.”
Outspoken former Zanu PF youth activist turned fierce party critic Acie Lumumba who once visited depositors sleeping in banking queues, said the slash was better than nothing.
“It’s a step in the right direction but it’s not enough. The banks have already made profits from clients before the clients could even receive their monies from the banks,” Lumumba said.Advertisement
“We need a new banking solution for Zimbabweans where the customers make money from their banks and not the other way round.”
Central bank governor John Mangudya Monday defended the new charges saying they were the same with those being charged regionally.
“Bank charges throughout the world are never something that the banking public would want but there is need to be an equilibrium position between the costs of bringing funds into the economy and the service charges that banks provide to the banking public.
“We want to believe that what we have done brings some equilibrium on account of those factors,” Mangudya said.
He added, “We need to take into account the quantity and the quantum of volume of business within the economy.
“In a big economy like South Africa for example, you will find that the unit cost of servicing is strengthened by a huge span of transactions, that’s why you find that in other countries charges can be lower.”
Mangudya said banks were justified in asking for the charges as they needed to raise funds to pay licence fees to remain functional.
Zimbabwean banks have also come under fire for high interest fees charged on loans disbursed to clients while the same spirit was missing when clients kept their monies in the same banks for long.
Mangudya, a former CBZ chief executive, said the high lending were influenced by the high cost of buying cash from other sources after which banks pass on the burden to clients as part of their efforts to make profits.
Zimbabweans have largely shunned formal banking institutions preferring to keep their money in the form of cash at home or in the form of property.
Their nightmares with local banks started as far back as 2005-2008 when banks imposed withdrawal limits while bank balances continued to lose value due to hyper-inflation.