Last month I needed to pay the rent (which is deposited into my account along with my salary), so I went to the one and only ATM in the town of Namaacha. My bank is Barclays, and there are two other main banks in Mozambique, BCI and Millenium BIM. There is no Barclays ATM in Inharrime so during the last two years I always withdrew from these other two banks’ ATMs without problems. The ATM in Namaacha is Millenium BIM, so I went one day and tried to withdraw 5,000 Meticais. It told me that those funds were not available at the time. This happens often at the end of the day when there just isn’t sufficient cash, so I asked for 3,000 Meticais and received it. The next day I returned and asked for 8,000 Meticais. It told me my card wasn’t working (which was slightly strange, I’ve never been told that before). I came back again the next day, requested 8,000 Meticais and received it. But then a few weeks later I realized my account was much lower than it should have been. I went to Barclays and requested an account statement and found that the 5,000 and 8,000 Meticais that I had requested but never received had still been removed from my account!
So today I took the chapa to Maputo (140 Meticais roundtrip) and spent the entire morning trying to recover this money. The people at the bank were nice and helpful, but restricted by a system that is less-than-efficient sometimes. At the end of the morning I was assured that they had contacted Millenium BIM to request the return of my funds and thus the process had been started. I was assured that the process should take no longer than 45 days, and was given a letter to bring back to the bank, should the funds not be returned at the end of 45 days. I was floored. 45 days?! I am currently, through no fault of my own, short 13,000 Meticais. At today’s exchange rate, this is $480, a notable sum of money for most people. And I am not most people—as a Peace Corps Volunteer this is almost TWO of my monthly salaries! Luckily I have a safety net to fall back on—money saved up, my bank account from America, friends and family who can lend me money—but what about all the people in Mozambique (the majority, surely) who don’t have these options? What are they supposed to do for 45 days in this situation?