Zimbabwean shoppers are up in arms after retailers in Bulawayo and beyond openly refused the local dollar and imposed jaw-dropping rates that soar as high as $5,500 against the U.S. dollar. The stunt has been widely seen as a desperate attempt to hawk foreign currency at the expense of helpless citizens.
Basic Supermarkets allegedly led the pack, pegging $1 at a preposterous $5,500 compared to the official $1,404 rate – nearly four times more. But others weren’t far behind, from $1,700 to as high as $3,200 according to a survey across Bulawayo suburbs. Some outlets were blunt, telling customers “we don’t accept local currency.”
Pensioners and vendors expressed outrage, saying the absurd rates made basics unaffordable. They slammed the “madness” and “extortion” by greedy retailers and appealed for government intervention to stop the “uncontrolled tide.” Shoppers argued that a single currency system is needed to end such instability fueled by multiple currencies.
The government has pledged action, announcing a 7-day study into “artificial shortages” and “speculative pricing” driving formal shops’ dramatically higher costs. President Mnangagwa himself chastised businesses in a strongly worded Sunday column, reminding them foreign currency should be surrendered to the central bank, not withheld.
Yet retailers continued flouting the law, brazenly refusing the legal tender of millions. The stunt threatens to further erode faith in Zimbabwe’s struggling currency, fueling calls for a single monetary regime that can’t be so easily undermined. But will government boldness match retailer defiance? Outraged shoppers wait to see.