Cash, forex traders put on notice
Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Reporter—
CABINET has approved a host of measures to arrest artificial shortages of basic commodities and the price madness triggered by economic saboteurs through social media, with Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa firing warning shots at illegal cash vendors on the streets. Government will also pull the trigger on traders who prefer selling their commodities in United States dollar notes and hike prices for those using bank swipe, bond notes or Ecocash.
At a joint state-of-the-economy address in Harare yesterday, Minister Chinamasa, his Industry and Commerce counterpart Mike Bimha and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Christopher Mushohwe said the crisis was artificial and there was no need to panic. The ministers said Government was seriously considering counter-measures to safeguard the economy against social media abusers, including speeding up the enactment of cyber crime laws.
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Government, the ministers said, was also working on improving the availability of foreign currency to ensure consistent production and supply of cooking oil and other basic commodities. Minister Chinamasa said illegal cash vending was rampant on the streets, contributing to economic challenges the nation was facing, hence the need to arrest the vendors and seize their monies.
“We are worried about the presence of city vendors buying and selling currency in the streets. We are taking measures to ensure the police are empowered to arrest those elements and seize whatever currency involved. Where we establish that the illegal transactions were done through bank accounts, the legislation will empower the freezing of those bank accounts. We are also going to trace and understand the trail of money whether bond notes or US dollars, as that money leaves the central bank, goes to the commercial banks and finally to the customers. We will find the weak links and then close the loopholes,” said Minister Chinamasa.
The minister said measures will be put in place to end the four-tier pricing system where prices for one commodity differ depending on the mode of payment. “The four-tier pricing system where traders would charge a price for cash US dollars, a different price for cash bond notes, one for RTGS and another for Ecocash should also come to an end,” he said. Minister Chinamasa said Cabinet had since drafted and approved drastic measures to sanitise business and the measures were now being crafted into a Bill at the Attorney-General’s Office.
If the measures were to be passed into law, the Minister said, will see the cancellation of licences for traders who receive money but do not take it to the bank. Minister Chinamasa said the artisanal mining sector was now a preserve of indigenous people adding that foreigners should quickly quit the business.
“We have agreed that artisanal mining is a preserve of the indigenous players. Foreigners in that sector should simply leave the business to pave way for our own people. One cannot come from other continents to do gold panning here. That is an area for our own people,” said the minister (edited).
Minister Mushohwe said Government was aware of the social media abusers and action will soon be taken against them. He added that social media platform service providers should cooperate with the Government to end abuses. “We are aware of the people playing these games on social media. “We have since had a meeting with providers of social media platforms that are being used and we expected some cooperation. “However, we do not seem to see the cooperation and we intend to engage them again,” he said.
Minister Mushohwe warned the service providers against being caught on the wrong side of the law in that respect. “The service providers whose platforms are being abused must take heed and be advised not to be caught on the wrong side of the law because they are not faceless. What is faceless is the person abusing the platforms,” he said. Minister Mushohwe said Government was working on the Cyber Security Bill which is expected to address the social media menace.
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Minister Bimha assured the nation that Government will continue to ensure that foreign currency was available for the industry to ensure consistent production and supply of cooking oil and other basic commodities. “There is assurance that foreign currency will be made available to ensure production of adequate cooking oil. “Government is also working on incentives for farmers to encourage them to grow sunflower, soya beans and others crops that produces oil so that we produce oil without foreign imports,” he said.
Minister Bimha said his ministry was carrying out surveys countrywide to assess the availability of basic commodities on the shelves. The ministry will also identify those behind the non-availability of the commodities, if there are any shortages.