President Mnangagwa on Tuesday granted a three-month moratorium within which individuals and corporates who externalised money and assets can bring back the looted assets without any questions asked. Well, this is a historic development in Zimbabwe’s economy and the vision driving such a move cannot be underestimated.
Government is simply holding wrong-doers to account — that is those who contributed to the economic downturn in the country. It is good that Government will neither ask questions nor charge those that will be repatriating the looted money or assets within the given time. The guilty individuals should embrace this amnesty.
Indeed, no Zimbabwean should claim ownership of money generated in the country using local resources. It is equally important that those implicated in the shenanigans play ball and surrender the looted resources because the funds remain the property of Zimbabwe and its people.
It has been an anomaly that those involved in the heinous acts of externalising the money were buying opulent properties in foreign lands or stash it in foreign bank accounts, while ordinary Zimbabweans failed to get the little they require to pay for little things like bus fare for their school-going children.
The sooner such criminals realise they cannot run or hide, the better for their well-being. What is obvious is that Government cannot announce such a move without having done its homework — records should be there to prove the State’s case. What pains ordinary Zimbabweans most is that some of the culprits are people who were entrusted with authority to lead and be part of solutions to the country’s problems.
We urge Government to leave no sacred cows in its endeavour to recover what belongs to the people. The rule of law should be applied in dealing with the criminals, who have already shown their disregard for the country’s laws by depriving the population of what belongs to the country.
Bringing the money back has many advantages to the economy and the people of Zimbabwe in general. This will help ease the liquidity challenges being experienced and bring back normalcy in the conduct of business. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe statistics indicate that an estimated $3 billion was externalised between 2015 and 2017 to countries such as Mauritius, in the Far East and Botswana.
The figure could actually be far much higher, as the externalisation dates far back than 2015. Such amounts will have more impact in the economy, even greater than the Foreign Direct Investment received in the country in recent years. Ever since the country started using multiple currencies, local banks have been going against the normal business ethos by importing money with a view to import key equipment, spares and other consumables to retool our industries.
Unfortunately, Zimbabwe became a source of foreign currency for other companies in the region and internationally, which dumped cheap substitutes that killed local industries. Those who aided and participated in these economic injustices inflicted on Zimbabweans should surely be held accountable. If the money is finally repatriated home, it is our hope that the cost of doing business is going to be drastically reduced. Our clarion call is for all those who looted funds and assets to heed President Mnangagwa’s call to return the loot before the long arm of the law catches up with them.
As the new Government implements “Operation Restore Legacy”, we look forward to everyone joining the noble exercise and play their part. It is time for economic criminals and any others for that matter, to repent and open a new chapter, so that they move on the same page with the new Government and all other Zimbabweans.