By A Correspondent- Public transport operators and traders must accept $20 notes as they are legal tender and failure to accept legal tender in transactions is outside the law, the Finance Ministry warned yesterday.
Some public transport operators and informal traders in the capital are no longer accepting the $20 notes as legal tender, months after they also rejected $10 and $5 notes, effectively taking them out of circulation.
The rebuff has left travellers stranded as many kombi operators and tuckshop owners are not accepting the $20 notes. They only take $50 and $100 notes. Supermarkets and other big furniture shops are accepting all local notes in circulation including $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes.
However, Government yesterday said the rejection of local bank notes was illegal and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe would inquire into the matter.
“The rejection of bond notes is illegal and we will do an inquiry with the RBZ. The $20 notes are legal tender and no one has reason to refuse the currency,” said chief director of communications and advocacy in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Mr Clive Mphambela.
Transport associations also blasted operators who are rejecting notes saying urgent action will be taken against those refusing to accept the bond notes.
Zimbabwe Passenger Transporters Organisation chairman Dr Sam Nanhanga said it was an offence for public transporters to refuse bond notes.
“As long as it is legal tender we accept it. We also accept all forms of payment be it in local currency or foreign currency,” he said.
Mr Ngoni Katsvairo, the Greater Harare Association of Commuter Omnibus Operators secretary-general echoed the same sentiments saying action would be taken against those who were not accepting local currency.
“As an association, we have not ordered any operator to reject bond notes. If the operators are rejecting local currency, the passengers must get the code inscribed at the back of the kombi and urgent action will be taken against the driver and the conductor and eventually the owner of the vehicle,” he said.
Zimbabwe Union of Drivers and Conductors president Mr Frederick Maguramhinga concurred with his counterparts and said: “To be honest, we do not allow what is not allowed by the Government, that is to reject the legal tender of this country.”
“This is our policy and we do not allow any driver or conductor to refuse the bond notes. We are accepting every form of payment and we are not selecting the types of notes to be paid.
“If the passengers see any of our members refuse to collect the $20 notes, they should call us and proper action will be taken against the driver or the operator of the kombi,” Mr Maguramhinga said. Passengers have also raised an outcry over the rejection of the $20 notes saying it has greatly affected their transport from their homes to the city centre and back.
They have urged Government to act against informal businesses that were rejecting $20 notes, a situation that is now adding pressure on the cash crisis. Miss Nyaradzo Chibukwa from Warren Park said Government should intervene and resolve the situation as bond notes were legal tender.
“What the conductors are doing is not fair because we would have received the money from the bank in $20 notes so they have no right to refuse the money. They are saying the money is not accepted in the tuckshops in the downtown of the city centre so they cannot accept the money. Police should arrest them because it is legal tender and no one should refuse it,” she said.