Harare - Battling cash shortages, Zimbabwe's central bank is to carry out raids on embattled businesses and traders to force them to bank their daily takings, state media reported Sunday.
The Sunday Mail quoted central bank chief John Mangudya saying those who didn't bank their cash would risk "losing their licence or incurring huge penalties" .
Although government officials have given differing reasons for the shortage of cash (Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week accused SADC countries of "raiding" Zimbabwe's US dollar supplies), the bank chief blamed what he called "a short circuit in the circulation system", referring to business and traders' unwillingness to bank cash.
In a separate report that will likely fuel the authorities' suspicion of national and foreign businessmen, two Rwandans were arrested at Harare International Airport on Sunday afternoon trying to smuggle out $87 400, the state Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Some of the money was stuffed inside one of the man's socks, the report said.
It is now hard to withdraw cash from Zimbabwe's banks, with claims that corporate clients at some banks are only being allowed to withdraw $500 per day.
Zimbabweans were spooked by Mangudya's announcement early last month that bond notes, a local version of US dollars, are to be introduced later this year. Fears - which the authorities say are misplaced - that bank balances will be converted into bond notes have sent many rushing to empty their accounts.
Farmers with large numbers of workers who are used to being paid in cash have been told they must all open bank accounts - even though some of the workers earn as little as $100 per month and bank charges are high.
The authorities are invoking a section of the Bank Use Promotion and Suppression of Money Laundering Act which compels traders or parastatals to bank their cash "no later than the close of business hours on the day following that on which the cash is received," according to the Sunday Mail.