German firm stops supplying blank banknotes to Zimbabwe

A German firm said Wednesday it has bowed to pressure and will stop supplying blank banknotes to Zimbabwe, where the regime of Robert Mugabe fills them with ever increasing numbers of zeros.

“By stopping with immediate effect we are taking into account the position of the (German) government and the international sanctions initiative of the EU and the UN,” Giesecke and Devrient GmbH spokesman Heiko Witzke said.

The Munich-based firm has supplied Zimbabwe for several years with the sheets of blank notes with security features like watermarks, which are then completed in the southern African country. Once a vibrant economy, Zimbabwe has suffered a financial collapse in recent years with the Mugabe government responding to runaway inflation by printing more and more banknotes of ever dizzier denominations.

The firm, founded in 1852, also supplied banknotes to the Weimar Republic in 1920s Germany when it too was suffering from hyperinflation. It also printed tickets for the 1936 Olympic Games in Nazi-era Germany and currently provides banknotes to 60 countries including Germany.

German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul wrote to the company last week asking it to stop supplying Zimbabwe, and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier echoed these concerns in a phone call with its CEO, the spokesman said.

Mugabe, 84, was re-elected for a sixth term on Friday in a one-man election after opposition leader and first round winner Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew because of violence and voter intimidation. Giesecke and Devrient’s spokesman added that it was subject to “very strict” international conditions when it supplies banknotes, and that any central bank it does business with must have World Bank accreditation.

Mugabe’s spokesman told the West on Tuesday it could “go hang a thousand times” over its criticism of the vote.