HARARE Zimbabwe's Steward Bank has suspended payments to the pay-TV subsidiary of South Africa's Naspers, citing unavailability of foreign currency, in a sign that dollar shortages are worsening in the southern African nation.
Local banks have been forced to limit withdrawals due to cash shortages while importers face long delays in paying for goods they bring in, forcing some businesses to buy dollars on the parallel market.
Steward Bank, a unit of mobile telephony operator Econet Wireless, said in a statement that it was suspending payments to Multichoice, Africa's largest pay-TV company, which is popular in Zimbabwe.
"To assist in effective allocation of foreign currency reserves at this critical time, we would like to advise that with immediate effect, the bank has suspended DStv (digital satellite television) payments for all account classes (except premium)," the bank said.
Last year in May, the central bank set priorities for imports, imposed limits on cash withdrawals and introduced a bond note currency in a bid to ease the acute shortage of money.
The International Monetary Fund in a report on Friday estimated that between $600-800 million was in circulation in Zimbabwe. Economic analysts say most of the money was outside the official bank sector.
Most Zimbabweans, who still vividly remember the 500 billion percent hyperinflation that wiped out their savings and pensions in 2008, are holding on to U.S. dollars as a store of value, worsening the currency shortages.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Toby Chopra)