Sat, Jan 17, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Harare unveils Z$100 trillion bill

HYPERINFLATION Zimbabwe introduced billion-dollar notes in denominations of 10, 20 and 50 just last week, but they are already too small to be used as currency

AGENCIES , HARARE AND JOHANNESBURG

Zimbabwe will introduce a Z$100 trillion note in its latest attempt to keep pace with hyperinflation that has left its once-vibrant economy in tatters, state media said yesterday.

The new Z$100,000,000,000,000 bill would have been worth about US$300 at Thursday’s exchange rate on the informal market, where most currency trading now takes place, but the value of the local currency erodes dramatically every day.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is introducing three other notes in trillion-dollar denominations of 10, 20 and 50, the government mouthpiece Herald newspaper said.

“In a move meant to ensure that the public has access to their money from banks, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has introduced a new family of banknotes which will gradually come into circulation, starting with the Z$10 trillion,” the bank said in a statement quoted by the Herald.

Just last week, the bank had introduced billion-dollar bills in denominations of 10, 20 and 50 with the same goal, but those notes are no longer large enough to keep up with hyperinflation.

The last official estimate put inflation at 231 million percent in July, but outside experts now believe it is many times higher.

When Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe first took power in 1980, following independence from Britain, the local unit was worth about the same as the British pound.

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader will return home this weekend after more than two months out of the country, and planned to meet with Robert Mugabe in an effort to resolve the stalemate over a power-sharing agreement.

Morgan Tsvangirai told reporters in South Africa on Thursday that he was under no illusions a simple conversation would be enough to persuade Mugabe to cede some of the power he has held for nearly three decades.

And Tsvangirai said he would be bringing his own conditions to the meeting, among them a call for the release of supporters and peace activists being tried on what Tsvangirai called “trumped up” charges of plotting to overthrow Mugabe.

In Harare on Thursday, one of the most prominent of those on trial sobbed on the stand as she told a judge she had been beaten by unknown men who took her from her home on Dec. 3. Human rights activist Jestina Mukoko was held at an undisclosed location until Dec. 23, when she was taken to a jail.

“I was abducted, kidnapped, tortured, assaulted,” she said, pleading with the judge to allow her to see her doctor.

Her hearing was to continue Friday.

A day earlier, Zimbabwean Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausika ordered that all the defendants be taken to a hospital for medical examinations to investigate charges they were tortured. Lawyers said on Thursday that order had not yet been carried out.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on Thursday called for the release of Mukoko and other detained activists.

Tsvangirai said he wanted to meet Mugabe despite the Zimbabwean government’s beating and detention of dissidents, and attempts to violate a power-sharing deal that has been stalled since September.

Tsvangirai has been out of Zimbabwe since Nov. 10 in a now resolved dispute over the Zimbabwean government’s failure to issue him a passport. The passport dispute had illustrated the deep gulf of mistrust between two men who are expected to lead their country together out of its economic and political morass.

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