A Zimbabwe bank doesn’t have sufficient foreign currency in order to pay South African-based Multichoice DTH broadcaster’s fees due from local subscribers.
Steward Bank, itself a subsidiary of cellular telco Econet Wireless, admits that it has run out of US dollars, the official currency of Zimbabwe.
In a statement, the bank said it was suspending payments to Multichoice, Africa’s largest pay-TV operator, which is extremely popular in Zimbabwe. “To assist in effective allocation of foreign currency reserves at this critical time, we would like to advise that with immediate effect, the bank has suspended DStv (digital satellite television) payments for all account classes (except premium subscribers),” the bank said.
It seems that despite around $600-$800 million in US dollars in circulation in the country, the physical cash is being horded by citizens as a hedge against inflation.
Zimbabwe has long suffered massive inflation on its own currency. Its own Zimbabwean dollar suffered hyper-inflation in the period 2006-2009, and which ended with bank notes ‘worth’ Z$100 trillion. The South African Rand, Euro, Indian Rupee, Pound Sterling, Botswana Pula, Japanese Yen, Australian Dollar and Chinese Yuan are all officially legal tender in the country – but it is US dollars that dominate trade. The worthless Zimbabwean dollar was demonetised in 2015.