POLICE in Bulawayo yesterday raided and arrested illegal money changers in the central business district in an operation aimed at ridding the city of illicit foreign currency dealers.
The operation code named “Flush out illegal foreign currency dealers” resulted in a number of osiphatheleni being arrested and their tools of trade confiscated by police around Tredgold Building and surrounding areas.
The operation follows an order by Chief Justice Luke Malaba last Friday where he remarked that it was “unhealthy” for such illegal activities to be carried out at the doorstep of the courts as it gave a negative opinion about the country’s justice delivery system.
Bulawayo province acting police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said the operation was aimed at bringing sanity on the city’s streets.
“Police today launched operation code named ‘Flush out illegal foreign currency dealers.’ The arrest of osiphatheleni will be an ongoing operation until there is sanity. We want to sustain our maintenance of law and order and sanity in the city,” said Insp Ncube.
Insp Ncube could not give figures of arrests made yesterday but said they were expecting a high number to be arrested until there is sanity.
He said police were working jointly with the Bulawayo City Council in the operation.
Some osiphatheleni, who spoke to The Chronicle, were defiant.
“We have been here for more than 20 years. We are used to the raids, bazadinwa, asisuki lapha (They will get tired, we are here to stay),” said a woman who declined to be named.
Another forex dealer said the Tredgold area was the epicentre of all money transactions and it would be difficult for them to vacate.
“There is a lot of traffic, we can’t move from here because as people go to board taxis they pass through this place. We target people here so we can’t move anywhere else,” he said.
The illegal money changers always play cat and mouse games with the police and have refused to vacate the environs of the courts, popularly known as the World Bank, due to the availability of cash in different currencies.
The areas around Tredgold Building, especially Innscor outlets, are frequented by osiphatheleni, vendors and illegal pirate taxis.
In an interview on the sidelines of the commissioning of three new court buildings at the Bulawayo High Court last week, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo said although Bulawayo’s streets were not heavily congested by vendors, they needed to be cleaned.
“Bulawayo is better, but we want it to be as clean as it used to be. So when the Chief Justice points out that the Tredgold Building is a centre of justice, let us not do anything that will take away that delivery of justice by having vendors around.
“I’m sure the Mayor has understood, we have understood and the police, municipal police have understood, let’s clean up all this,” said Minister Moyo.
CJ Malaba in his speech at the commissioning of three additional courtrooms at the Bulawayo High Court, said council should find a permanent solution to the problem of osiphatheleni.