President Emmerson Mnangagwa will invoke the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to introduce tough regulations to bring currency manipulators to book.
In his weekly The Sunday Mail column, the Head of State and Government said it was inconceivable that rampant black market activities were thriving without complicity of high-ranking State officials.
Information gathered so far, he said, indicated that “an intricate network of currency speculators mostly in high places and in places of trust”.
Further, a police spokesperson informed this publication that they had made arrests of illegal currency dealers who were linked to prominent people, and would soon make the findings of their investigations public.
In his column, President Mnangagwa said: “Considering that more than $9 billion is passing through different electronic platforms and leaving an ‘electronic trail’, it is inconceivable that these illicit transactions have and can ever go on undetected or unnoticed. It simply cannot be.”
Speculative activities, especially illegal foreign currency trading, have caused a marked depreciation of bond notes and RTGS balances against the United States dollar, triggering hikes in the prices of basic commodities, panic-buying and product shortages.
President Mnangagwa revealed he had tasked his top legal advisors to craft comprehensive legislation to plug loopholes that allowed black marketeers to operate with impunity.
“Currently, we have no legislation to deal with currency manipulators. We therefore need urgent and robust measures to deal with this financial menace.
“Accordingly, I have now instructed the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to work closely and expeditiously with the Attorney-General in order to produce a new set of regulations which will be promulgated under temporary law-making powers which I, as President, am allowed by the Constitution.
“These regulations will remain in force for a statutory period of six months, during which a Bill will have to be processed for consideration by our Legislators,” President Mnangagwa said.
The new law will be in line with international best practices, where suspicious transactions are automatically flagged and investigated.
Jurisdictions such as the United States also trace if such transactions are being taxed.
In a “cash-lite” economy like Zimbabwe’s, such a dragnet would quickly dredge speculators as most transactions are e-based. Yesterday, Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyati said they had made arrests in connection with illegal currency trading linked to bigwigs.
“We can confirm that we have made some arrests with regards to some of the prominent people who are behind the illegal currency deals.
“You are aware of the Government position to deal with such deals which are causing economic damage to the country. Very soon, we are going to release full details of some of these culprits and the nature of the crimes,” he said.
Attorney-General Advocate Prince Machaya added: “Some time at the end of last year we attempted to address it through a Statutory Instrument that we introduced, read together with the Exchange Control Act.”
Statutory Instrument 122A of 2017 empowers police to seize money from people suspected of illegal currency dealings.
Part of the SI reads: “In relation to any dealing in currency, an authorised officer or a police officer acting to enforce any order (a) may, for the purpose of holding the currency as an exhibit in a subsequent prosecution, seize any currency upon a reasonable suspicion that the possessor thereof is dealing in it unlawfully, that is, in contravention of any order or any provision of the Act or these regulations by virtue of which the order is made.”
Lawyer Mr Jonathan Samkange accused monetary authorities of sleeping on duty by failing to detect suspicious transactions.
“It is well within the mandate of the (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) to track all suspicious transactions, or at least watch over the banks so that they can follow up on such transactions.
“The law empowers them to have such oversight. It appears that they are not doing so and the question that has to be asked is why are they not?
“It’s the norm across the world for any huge transactions to be accounted for. For example, I have a daughter who is at university in a foreign country and whenever I pay fees for her, I have to justify such a transaction.
“If other countries can raise alarm on such transactions, why do our monetary authorities choose to remain quiet when millions of dollars are moved every day?” he questioned.