The move comes as the country battles severe, and worsening, shortages of both the surrogate currency - the bond notes - and US dollars, amid fears the dying economy is hurtling towards the lows of 2008 when Zimbabweans became “multi-billionaires” but pitifully poor overnight.
Zimbabwe ditched its worthless currency and switched to the multiple currency system in 2009.
The announcement also came as economists warned Zimbabwe’s average income levels were at their lowest in more than 60 years, with 76% of the population living below the poverty line. In addition, the country’s sovereign ratings have plummeted shockingly. Zimbabwe was classified recently as the poorest country in Africa, amid company closures and high levels of unemployment.
In last week’s surprise announcement, state media quoted mining minister Walter Chidakwa as saying the government was working on “a plan to establish a gold reserve set to anchor the introduction of a local currency”, which would see the resurrection of the Zimbabwean dollar. The plan, being modelled around the $200 million African Export-Import Bank facility, which backs bond notes - and whose legal processes were already said to be before parliament - was aimed at mitigating the country’s acute liquidity and cash crunch.
“Naturally, in order to support the future introduction of our own currency, you want to have mineral resources that you hold in reserve.
“We have discussed this matter with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and because most of the gold that is currently held is in private hands, we need to get our own companies operating,” Chidakwa said.
This was despite reserve bank governor John Mangudya having said market conditions would not be right for the return of the Zim dollar any time soon.
Former finance minister, Tendai Biti said: “These zombies, devoid of reasoning, want to introduce toilet paper as money just to save their necks. But the conducive economic fundamentals are lacking.
“Firstly, it is beyond absurd to think you can build $2 billion in gold reserves in this country (as the government has suggested)."
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC also warned against rushing the Zim dollar back into the market.
“The Zanu-PF regime is a renegade outfit that is capable of doing anything hence the bankrupt plans to bring back the Zimbabwe dollar.
“Remember, the national economy is comatose and Mugabe and his Zanu-PF regime are only concerned about holding onto power," MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said. "These people don’t give a damn about the suffering of the majority of Zimbabweans.”