When the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe announced the printing of the new notes as a new currency, quite a stir was caused. And there was a bit of back between the bank and the Ministry of Finance as to whether we were getting new notes or a new currency. The consensus eventually settled on the idea that these were new notes to represent the existing Zimbabwean dollar currency. However, confusion was once again stirred when the Reserve Bank gazetted the description of the notes.

The initial belief was that the Zimbabwean dollar two-dollar and five-dollar notes would have the same colour as their bond counterparts. Pure comedy played out as the release of images of the notes revealed that they were in fact bond notes without the inscription “bond note”. They were neither new notes nor new currency. As if that was not enough, the coins also have the year 2018 inscribed on them. Now there’s nothing wrong with producing coins in one year and introducing them in the next unless of course, the nation is in a crippling cash shortage.

The new Zimbabwean dollar notes are not similar to bond notes in name and feature only. The notes were slated for arrival in the public domain yesterday, the 11th of November. However, the notes were not available. Dr John Mangudya, who I’m certain very few people place trust in said that all banks received cash from the RBZ. With no cash available to the transacting public there may be cause for concern. While the absence of the new money was explained away with the idea that getting the cash into banks is a process murmurings of problems of the past were audible.

The Reserve Bank is said to have released ZWL$30 million worth of notes and coins. First of all, we must be fair and note that this is 30 million of 1 billion, so 3% of what is to come over the next 6 months. While the bank has promised 1 billion can we be sure that 1 billion is, in fact, enough to stabilise the cash situation? And that is on the hope that the money supply will not grow electronically as it has done over the years.

Citizens and commentators immediately expressed concern that these new notes may likely experience the same fate their predecessors did: a few powerful individuals with access get all the cash and sell it back to the masses. It’s hard to argue against. No real reforms have been made in the monetary space. A few controls have been introduced together with the ban on transacting in other currencies. Save from those changes nothing has been done restrict the powerful elite from utilising the same loopholes they have before.

There’s nothing new here, nothing new at all. We have even repeated old mistakes, placing the number before the $ sign on our coins.