ZIMBABWEANS are being ripped off by retailers and service providers who are taking advantage of the decline in the value of the rand, as the country battles with the fluctuating rates caused by the use of a multi-currency regime. In 2009, Zimbabwe adopted a basket of currencies that uses the United States dollar, the rand, Botswana pula, British pound and the euro, to replace the Zimbabwean dollar that had been rendered useless by hyper-inflation. It emerged yesterday that one of the country's major referral health facilities, Harare Central Hospital , was telling patients to pay only in United States dollars. In the event they accept the rand, they use an extorting exchange rate. One of those who lost money was Noliwe Maposa after she went to pay maternity fees for her sister who had delivered a baby at the hospital. Maposa told The Standard yesterday that when she went to pay the bill, she was told to pay in United States dollars only. Of the US$123 bill, she was told to pay half in order for her sister to be discharged. "When I wanted to pay, they refused to accept the rand. I had US$50 and some rands with me. I ended up paying US$50 and R200. The receipt, which was handwritten, indicated that I had paid US$60 . It means the R200 had been converted to US$10 , which is unfair," she said yesterday. "They had asked me to go and exchange the R200 into dollars, while my sister waited for me in the hall." Harare Central Hospital clinical director George Vera told The Standard yesterday that a written complaint should be submitted to his office for onward transmission to the finance director. Maposa's plight is shared by the majority of Zimbabweans who are at the receiving end of greedy retailers and operators that are maximising on the exchange rate. While some big retailers such as OK Zimbabwe have daily exchange rates, others have fixed rates where 100 rand would be exchanged for US$9 . Due to the absence of United States coins on the market, retailers are ripping-off shoppers. One is given R4 as change for US$0,50 . However, when one buys something for US$0,50 in the same shop and tries to pay with R4, till operators do not accept the money, saying it is not enough. The Standard was told yesterday that some commuter omnibus operators in Harare were asking passengers to pay US$0,50 or R5 for a trip. For the past two years, US$0,50 had been used inter-changeably with R4 as fare. Some businesses are not accepting the rand, fearing incurring losses, as it continues to fluctuate against major currencies. Some bottle stores in Harare's high-density areas do not take the rand anymore, preferring the "greenback". "I had R100 in my pocket, but I could not enjoy a beer drink with my colleagues because all the bottle stores would not accept the rand," said one imbiber. "I feel sorry for those coming for the holidays from South Africa ."
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