The government has frozen bank accounts of exiled former ministers Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere, who escaped the dragnet of the military under Operation Restore Legacy targeted at alleged criminals around former President Robert Mugabe.
The order also extends to any business and company bank accounts that are associated with the former ministers, who were in the Zanu PF G40 faction led by former First Lady Grace Mugabe. A statement by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) giving the orders did not disclose the reasons for the freeze.
Moyo and Kasukuwere are believed to have gone into exile after fleeing the country when the military launched an operation that booted out Mugabe, who had been in power for 37 years. Since the operation, Moyo and Kasukuwere have not made any public appearances.
Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu confirmed the freeze, but downplayed it saying the directive was made to local financial institutions only.
“I am aware of that and it has been done locally,” he said, moments before he attended the 2018 National Budget presentation by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa.
Part of the RBZ statement to financial institutions headed: “Directive to all financial institutions: Freezing of accounts re: Prof Jonathan Moyo and Mr Saviour Kasukuwere (former government ministers) read: “You are directed to identify and immediately freeze: (i) all accounts in the name of the above-named individuals; and (ii) any accounts in which the said individuals are directors or have a known beneficial interest.”
The statement added: “You are further directed to submit, in writing, a return to the unit, by no later than December 8, 2017, listing and giving particulars (including balances) of all the accounts that you would have identified and frozen in terms of this directive.
“Where you have not identified any relevant account, you shall, nevertheless, submit a nil return. Where you are in doubt regarding whether or not any particular account is linked to the named subjects, you shall contact the Unit for further direction. The effect of the freeze is that, (except any inflows into the account, which shall be processed normally and immediately notified to the Unit) no other transaction shall be processed from a frozen account until further the Unit directs otherwise.”
But Moyo took to Twitter, after the statement leaked, saying the country was now operating under the law of the jungle.
“I see some journalists and social media platforms are awash with this extract below. If it is an authentic extract of or from a legitimate official communication, then the law of the jungle is in operation in the so-called new era,” he tweeted.
In another tweet, Moyo said: “The real risk and possibility that bank accounts can be frozen just like that without due process in the so-called new era in Zimbabwe run by the military, spells doom for ordinary people or businesses and worse for investors.”
Kasukuwere reportedly has vast business interests in the tourism and energy sectors, although most of his operations were reportedly struggling. It could not be established what business Moyo was into, although he is a well-known farmer in the Mazowe area.
Lawyer Lewis Uriri said the government could act if it suspected the money was acquired through illegal means or could be used to finance terror.
“There is the Bank Use Promotion and Suppression of Money Laundering Act which allows that. The Act seeks to enforce some provisions of the Palermo Convention on terror financing and suppression. So, that directive could have been issued as a directive under the Bank Use Act. The financial unit can give directives where there are reasons to believe that there was money laundering or terror financing. They can prevent transaction from that account. The Proceeds of Crime Act allows freezing of an account if there is belief that it has been acquired illegally,” he explained.
Uriri said the government may deliberately not state reasons for the freeze to give room for investigations.
“This, however, should have been done confidentially. The only question is, why is it being done only now?” he questioned.
Another lawyer and MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora said there was selective application of the law by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration.
“We can only take them seriously when they arrest a Lacoste backer. As it stands, they are targeting only people they do not share the same political ideology with,” he said.