Freeman Razemba Crime Reporter
About 170 illegal foreign currency dealers have been arrested countrywide since last week as police intensify a campaign against currency trading which caused volatility in the prices of basic commodities.
Police also say they launched the operation against the illegal currency traders because they pose a serious security and economic threat to the country.
National Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrests yesterday, saying they were conducting the operation together with other relevant stakeholders.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police, having noted that activities by illegal foreign currency dealers were posing a serious security and economic threat to the country, embarked on a countrywide operation meant to enforce Statutory Instrument 122A of 2017, Exchange Control (Amendment) Regulations, 2017 (No.5), which criminalises the illegal trading in foreign currency.
“This operation is being done in conjunction with relevant stakeholders,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said statistics from provinces on Monday indicated that six people were arrested for illegal dealing in foreign currency and seven for blocking pavements countrywide.
“Cumulatively, as from October 18, 2018, a total of 107 arrests have been made for dealing in foreign currency and 58 for blocking pavements countrywide.
“Police are warning members of the public to desist from illegally dealing in foreign currency as the long arm of the law will always catch up with them,” he said.
He said the operation would continue until there was sanity in all towns and cities. “Members of the public, business entities, corporates and individuals are encouraged to cooperate with law enforcement agents in order to ensure that law and order are maintained throughout the operation,” Asst Comm Nyathi said.
The arrests also came as President Mnangagwa last weekend said he would invoke the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to introduce tough regulations to bring currency manipulators to book. In his weekly column in The Sunday Mail, the Head of State and Government said it was inconceivable that rampant black market activities were thriving without complicity of high-ranking State officials. President Mnangagwa said: “Considering that more than $9 billion is passing through different electronic platforms and leaving an ‘electronic trail’, it is inconceivable that these illicit transactions have and can ever go on undetected or unnoticed. It simply cannot be.”
Speculative activities, especially illegal foreign currency trading, have caused a marked depreciation of Bond notes and RTGS balances against the United States dollar, triggering hikes in the prices of basic commodities, panic-buying and product shortages.
President Mnangagwa revealed he had tasked his top legal advisors to craft comprehensive legislation to plug loopholes that allowed black marketeers to operate with impunity.
“Currently, we have no legislation to deal with currency manipulators. We, therefore, need urgent and robust measures to deal with this financial menace.
“Accordingly, I have now instructed the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to work closely and expeditiously with the Attorney-General in order to produce a new set of regulations which will be promulgated under temporary law-making powers which I, as President, am allowed by the Constitution. These regulations will remain in force for a statutory period of six months, during which a Bill will have to be processed for consideration by our legislators,” President Mnangagwa said.
The new law will be in line with international best practices, where suspicious transactions are automatically flagged and investigated.