GIVEN the dry Zimbabwean nostro accounts local companies are grappling to pay up foreign dues on the back of delays by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which set up a priorities list which gives preference to some companies to pay up their imports. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is among the companies that have been hit hard by this move.
Econet said it was struggling to meet United States dollar-denominated commitments.
In a statement accompanying the company’s half year results for the period ended August 31, 2016, Econet board chairman James Myers said the depletion of the country’s foreign currency reserves had made it difficult for all companies to make payments to foreign suppliers of capital, goods and services.
“As a result, we have been unable to make certain debt repayments on time, notwithstanding that cash was available in our local bank accounts. This situation is expected to persist. We have engaged our lenders and continue to explore mutually acceptable solutions,” he said.
Another tech company that has been drawn back by the RBZ’s Priolity list is Astro Mobile.
Speaking at a media briefing recently , Astro Founder Mr Munyaradzi Gwatidzo said they were finding it hard to import some of their products as it now takes not less than four months before the RBZ authorizes payments for their next shipment .
“We have been finding it hard to get our products in the country because of payment issues. At the moment we have no stock due to a backlog of payments, We may wait as much as four months to get our payments authorised, which greatly affects our operations and relationship with suppliers,” he said.
Delta Corporation Limited owes shareholders and creditors at least $30 million due to cash problems in the Zimbabwean market, which has made it impossible for companies to make foreign payments on time.
The company has a backlog on foreign dividend of $14,8m which was paid in June, about $6m for investments for Masvingo and Kwekwe plants and the balance is for suppliers.
“We could have paid it, but that could have meant sacrificing the business. But the shareholder understands the business and has prioritised capital and raw materials. We should be able to pay before year-end the foreign dividend, but I am not sure how much,” an official said.
Delta group executive director finance, Matts Valela, during the company’s analyst briefing on Wednesday, said: “We should be taking sufficient measures to avoid disruptions of suppliers and paying shareholders on time.”
The shocking truth about how Zimbabwean Nostro accounts have been running critically low, is the only reason why we are in such a financial mess , but unfortunately the RBZ Governor Mr John Mangudya and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa are skirting the real problem.
Trying to blame externalization and bringing in of bond notes are only make up solutions to the ugly frog, while at on ground, what we really expect are long term solutions to solve the problem.
Zimbabwe banks including the RBZ do not control the US dollar, every currency that that has been in use came through international sources, so this currency like in any other international market is settled only through an international bank account called nostro account.
For every withdrawal made or deposit in any local bank, the corresponding international nostro account should be immediately adjusted likewise, as this is the actual account which holds the foreign currency.
Unfortunately in 2012, the RBZ took over the system, and promised banks that it will manage and settle the nostro accounts directly as the authority, and the banks had no option but to trust the regulator and submitted their banking system to RBZ which runs the local currency called RTGS, to enable intra bank transfers.
The then RBZ governor, Dr Gideon Gono stated correspondent banking relationships could be vulnerable to money laundering and terrorism financing if not monitored.
In coming up with the import priority list, RBZ said people were spending hard-earned foreign currency buying trinkets. RBZ said its measures would boost local industries and grow exports.
According to the list, priority one was given to net exporters, who import raw materials or machinery to aid them to produce and generate more exports. Non-exporting importers of raw materials and machinery for local production (value addition) that directly substitute import of essential finished goods and importation of critical and strategic goods, such as basic food stuffs and fuel, health and agro-chemicals, were also given top priority provided that the goods are not available locally.
Repayments of offshore lines of credit procured to fund productive activities; payments for services not available in Zimbabwe and foreign investment (capital disinvestments, profits and dividends) have also been given top priority.
Priority two (medium) is given to bank’s borrowing clients in the productive sector, who engage in critical and strategic imports.
Priority three (low) is given to payments of university and college fees and cash depositing clients in the retail and wholesale service industry. The customers generate cash, which can either be recycled for local use or repatriated to replenish nostro accounts. Low priority is also given to other borrowing clients, who have engaged in the importation of non-strategic goods.
RBZ said transactions considered not a priority included capital remittances from disposal of local property, capital remittances for cross-border investments, funding of offshore credit cards and importation of trinkets. It also includes importation of low local content consumer goods and/or goods readily available in Zimbabwe, such as non-commercial vehicles, maheu, bottled water, tomatoes and vegetables, payments for services available in Zimbabwe and donations.