Harare - Zimbabweans are so worried about the introduction of "bond notes" that they're praying about them in church, Christian leaders said on Friday.
"They don't see the difference between bond notes and the hyper-inflationary bearer cheques that were used up to 2008," said the Zimbabwe Christian Heads of Denominations (ZHOCD) in a statement.
In the face of a worsening cash shortage, central bank chief John Mangudya confirmed this week that "bond notes" - a local equivalent to the US - will be introduced later this year, likely around October.
As lengthy bank queues become the order of the day, many Zimbabweans fear the bond notes will go the same way as the high-denomination bearer cheques, quickly becoming worthless. Zimbabwe officially abandoned bearer cheques in early 2009, adopting a foreign currency regime.
ZHOCD chairperson Bishop Ishmael Mukuwanda said: "Many people who have come to church to communicate their concerns have expressed a lot of panic over bond notes."
In a report carried by the official Chronicle and Herald newspapers, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa - widely regarded as a possible successor to the ageing President Robert Mugabe - urged Zimbabweans to "embrace" bond notes.
He blamed cash shortages on "SADC countries that don't have the US dollar". "They are coming to raid Zimbabwe," Mnangagwa said in comments carried by the two papers. "Even those who trade in tomatoes come here and get the US dollar."
Bank chief Mangudya reportedly told a Roman Catholic business meeting earlier this week that Zimbabweans were "being used by the very people taking the cash out of Zimbabwe" to reject bond notes.