Fuel queues resurfaced in the Zimbabwe capital Harare on Saturday, for the first time in years, and there were reports of panic buying by shoppers fearing shortages.
In one Harare suburb News24 visited two service stations where there was no fuel, while a third station was dispensing diesel to a queue of trucks and SUVs.
Customers were being limited to just $30 of diesel if they used their debit cards: any more than that had to be paid for in hard cash or local bond notes.
Meanwhile, Harare residents shared Whatsapp pictures of customers at some stores stocking up on basic commodities like cooking oil.
But central bank chief John Mangudya dismissed news of imminent shortages as “fake news”.
“There are no shortages of basic commodities,” he said in a statement. “On the contrary, foreign exchange currently being allocated for basic and essential commodities has instead been increased to ensure that shortages of commodities do not occur within the economy.”
Anger and fear
“Please don’t tell us not to panic. The value of money held in the bank is falling. There’s uncertainty, inflation and broken trust,” aspiring independent MP Fadzayi Mahere wrote on Twitter.
There are fears of a repeat of Zimbabwe’s 2007-2008 crisis, that saw hyper-inflation wipe out savings and empty shop shelves.
Prices of some goods are already increasing. Retailers say this is because they have to buy scarce foreign currency on the black market to restock.
‘Can we afford not to panic?’
Zimbabwe uses the US dollar, but US dollars have mostly disappeared from circulation. Bond notes, introduced last November to ease cash shortages, are also in short supply.
A supermarket in Harare’s Mount Pleasant suburb was issuing just two dollars as cash-back to customers on Saturday morning, but had stopped doing this by the afternoon.
“Can we afford to not panic?” asked Zimbabwean @TichRay on Twitter. “Can we afford to trust the monetary & fiscal authorities? Isn’t there precedence to justify our panicking?”