VISA cards ‘not working’ in Zimbabwe

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It’s a nightmare. You travel back to cash-strapped Zimbabwe for Christmas ready to spread a bit of festive cheer with your Visa card and then find out it doesn’t work.

Returning Zimbabweans have reported being forced to travel either to South Africa or Botswana to withdraw cash after finding that their Visa cards are being declined by retailers, a newspaper said on Friday.

Independently, News24 has seen that some shops are also not able to accept even local Visa cards to pay for goods – at a time when banks cannot meet the demand for cash.

Some Zimbabweans have been able to manoeuvre their way round the long-running cash shortages by using plastic payments and online banking – though of course, these methods do not work in public transport, flea markets and many small businesses.

The state-controlled Chronicle newspaper quoted a businessman who’d returned from the UK for the holidays only to find he could neither withdraw cash nor pay for goods and services using his Visa card. Ronald Chauke will now have to travel to Botswana just to get cash to last him through the holiday, the paper said.

There’s also bad news for Zimbabweans who’ve relied on popular mobile money platform EcoCash to pay for DSTV: that cash-friendly option will no longer be available from January 1.

“DSTV payments through EcoCash will be suspended with effect from 1 January 2017. We apologise for any inconvenience caused,” says EcoCash in a DM Friday.

The injection of 12 million more ‘bond notes’ – a local bank note that has no value outside Zimbabwe – into the market is worrying retailers. Two retailers of electronic goods told News24 separately this week that they are worried they will soon no longer be able to restock from outside the country.

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