THE country’s foreign currency squeeze has reportedly forced some government departments and parastatals to source the elusive United States dollars from the parallel market to fund their various activities in contravention of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s (RBZ) foreign currency exchange regulations, NewsDay has learnt.
This was revealed yesterday when Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) chief executive officer, Nancy Masiiwa testified at the High Court in a matter where the parastatal’s five executives are being charged with sourcing over $2,8 million from the black market to pay off part of the parastatal’s debt to Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).
Although she admitted that the move was illegal, Masiiwa revealed that Infralink (Pvt) Ltd sourced $2 940 588 through Caudless (Pvt) Ltd and Grayriver (Pvt) Ltd.
Infralink is a Zinara special purpose vehicle, jointly owned by Zinara and Group Five (Pvt) Ltd, with a shareholding of 75% and 25%, respectively.
Masiiwa claimed the money was meant to pay off a $206 million loan sourced from DBSA, sourced through Infralink.
The loan had been sourced by Zinara for the construction and rehabilitation of the 823km-long Plumtree-Mutare Highway.
The illegitimate move by the parastatal came at a time when law enforcement agents have been engaged in running battles with money changers after Parliament, through the RBZ, outlawed the activity and called for stiffer penalties against convicted offenders.
Through their lawyer, Rekai Maposa, all the suspects — Simon Mudzingwa Taranhike, Shadreck Matengabadza, Stephen Matute, Givemore Tatenda Kufa and Precious Murove — pleaded not guilty to the charge when they appeared before High Court judge Justice Amie Tsanga.
In their defence, the suspects claimed the charge against them was politically motivated after they were linked to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Team Lacoste Zanu PF faction.
They claimed the charges were concocted after they allegedly refused to carry out instructions from Masiiwa to embezzle public funds.
But in her evidence, Masiiwa said after Zinara realised that the non-serviced loan had ballooned to an unsustainable level of over $14,5 million, she instructed Zinara’s finance director, Taranhike, to be innovative and find suitable financiers to help in raising the money to pay off the debt.
“There was never a time that I (Masiiwa), as the chief executive officer of Zinara, or any member of the executive instructed the finance director or his deputy to source hard currency from the informal market for to do so was in violation of the standing rules.
“In the event that the finance director faced challenges implementing these tasks, he was supposed to apprise my office or the board of the challenges for further management,” she said.
“I got to know about a company called Grayriver (Pvt) Ltd through key payments for the weekly returns, which were submitted by the finance director on June 20, 2017.
“I was surprised when the finance director informed me that the finance department had raised $2,8 million from the informal market . . . in this case, the finance director or his deputy did not consult with the board or the executive before they went into the informal market to source foreign currency.”
Justice Tsanga asked Masiiwa if, for a period of about six weeks, she was not in the picture that the money had been sourced from the parallel market and paid towards the loan.
“I was not aware that something had been paid,” she responded.
“The information was hidden from the executive.
“Zinara would not have sourced cash from the parallel market for doing so would be illegal.”
On Monday, prosecutor Chris Mutangadura called the first State witness, Presidential Affairs permanent secretary Judith Katerera, who told the court she was a former permanent secretary in the Transport ministry.
Katerera said all she knew was that Zinara obtained a loan from DBSA, which had accumulated $21 million in interest and needed to be settled as a matter of urgency.
At least nine witnesses have been lined up to give evidence and they are Christopher Hokonya, former Zinara board chairman Albert Mugabe, Shadreck Chezani, Honest Kugotsi, Patrick Takawira, Tonderai Marange and Bruce Michael Black.