Zimbabwe’s long closed bank re-opens set to offset ex-white farmers’ US$3,5b govt debt

Zimbabwe’s first locally owned commercial bank, Time Bank has reopened its doors to the banking public after years of closure and has immediately unveiled a facility to offset the outstanding former white farmers compensation bill.

Last year, the government undertook to pay a whopping US$3,5 billion as compensation for improvements made by white farmers on the land which they occupied prior to the controversial fast track land programme.

“The purpose of the facility is to finance the payment of compensation by the government to Previous Farm Owners (PFOs) who are covered by the Global Compensation Deed,” Time Bank said in a statement this week.

“The compensation amount will be paid through Time Bank by the government to the PFO and Time Bank will pay such compensation in the United States dollars, cash or bank transfer.”

The bank said that interested former white farmers would be required to submit application forms for payments that will not exceed US$10 000 per applicant in any given period on condition the government issues a letter of confirmation guaranteeing loan repayment.

However, the facility is yet to get regulatory approvals before it kick starts.

The bank has also unveiled plans to launch other facilities, one of which includes a US$10 000 exporter loan facility at a “negotiable interest rate”.

The other facility – the mortgage loan – will also be available in foreign currency on flexible terms for both locals and Zimbabweans in the Diaspora.

“The facilities will be available after December 1, 2021, and also after approvals by the RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) and the Finance Ministry. In the meantime, Time Bank will seek such approvals,” the statement added.

Licensed in 1997, the bank closed shop 17 years ago after authorities censured it for flouting regulations. However, the closure has since been declared unlawful.

The bank became the first locally-owned commercial bank in the country and established itself on the market before other local investors moved into the sector which was at that time, dominated by foreigners.

Chris Takura Tande was the founder of Time Bank. It also emerged the RBZ unlawfully took about US$5 million from Time Bank before closing the bank and this created financial problems for the financial institution.

However, despite the reinstatement of its license, Time Bank failed to reopen as the RBZ under governor Gideon Gono, declined to hand over its assets and documents at the end of the curatorship.

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