Illegal forex dealers are beginning to trickle back into central Harare, despite roadblocks designed to check on motorists and on passengers in Zupco buses, with both groups required to prove they are in essential services.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi recently warned the illegal money changers saying police would descend on them.
“Police urge members of the public to receive their money from authorised dealers and then go to the shops, which have been authorised to transact in both local and foreign currency, to buy basic commodities or access medication from pharmacies,” he said.
“There is no need, therefore, for people to engage illegal foreign currency dealers while in the process exposing themselves to the Covid-19 pandemic. The ZRP will arrest all illegal foreign currency dealers who are committing such criminal acts, while at the same time disregarding the Government’s Covid-19 lockdown measures.”
Investigations by The Herald revealed that the illegal dealers target people who collect their forex from Mukuru and World Remit after these services were restored three days a ago to help Zimbabweans reliant on transfers from the Diaspora.
One of the money changers, who spoke to The Herald crew posing as potential clients, revealed how they evade the police on their way into the city centre.
“My friend, it is not easy to be operating from the city centre, but it is harder to do business at home so we are left with no choice but to sneak our way into the CBD and evade the security check points since we do not have passes or letters, which state that we offer essential services,” he said.
“At times we leave our vehicles outside the city centre and complete the journey into the CBD on foot. It is actually safer that way, as we have to make sure that the security services, particularly soldiers, do not see us since these do not compromise at all.”
His colleague added that they only came into the city centre during the week as more people would be receiving their remittances from either Mukuru or World Remit.
“Those are our customers and we offer them a good rate,” he said. “Some of them are our regulars now so as soon as they withdraw their forex, they come to us.
“We have to be in the city centre to make good profits. There is competition in the suburbs and we are at an advantage if we do our business in the CBD.”
One of the people who had just received her foreign currency from Mukuru along Sam Nujoma Street confirmed that she regularly does business with illegal money changers.
“I always go to money changers to convert my foreign currency into local currency and will do the same today,” she said.
The Herald visited Copacabana bus terminus where some illegal money changers were conducting business, but discreetly.
The Herald approached one of them pretending to be seeking local currency from US$10.
“If you want to change US$10, I will have to transfer $410 into your EcoCash wallet and if you need cash then you will get $350,” said the money changer.