By Kenneth Matimaire
Unscrupulous bank officials in Mutare are allegedly smuggling cash to illegal forex dealers who are in turn re-trading the notes at a premium.
Meanwhile, police say they were investigating the scam at a time Zimbabwean cross border traders using the Forbes Border Post into Mozambique are being forced to seek services from illegal foreign currency dealers.
The dealers operating from Moto Moto up to Customs House – adjacent to the Mozambican taxi rank –are cross rating lower American dollar denominations against higher denominations.
Since the cash crisis hit the country few months ago, higher US dollar denomination have gone scarce. However, forex dealers are alleged to be working with bank officials who are believed to be smuggling higher denomination notes onto the black market.
A recent visit to Mozambique by RadioVOP revealed that $50 and $100 notes were being “sold” for $3 and $5, respectively. The Zimbabwean government has allegedly mopped up higher denominations from circulation in a bid to curb cash externalisation.
This has put traders in catch 22 situation as failure to acquire proof of exchange at Machipanda Border Post’s Bureau de Change will amount to arrest or heavy fines in Mozambique. Moreover, the Bureau de Change only accepts higher denominations, thereby forcing traders to pay extra for higher denominations from the black market.
“What is happening is very unfair. It’s well known that all higher denominations are no longer available in Zimbabwe. You only get $20 notes and below, either from banks or supermarkets.
“But the bank operating at the border is refusing to take the lower notes which are formally available in Zimbabwe. We are now forced to get higher denominations from sharks that are selling them at a cost,” said one Brian Mukwindidza, a cross border trader.
Several other cross border traders shared the same sentiment.
An unidentified official at Machipanda Border Post’s Bureau de Change confirmed they only accepted higher denominations.
The middle aged Mozambican official further said they were not concerned about the unavailability of higher denomination notes across the border.
“That is not my business. We don’t care about what is happening in Zimbabwe. Our position is that we only take $50 and $100 notes,” said the male official.
The scenario has left cross border traders at the mercy of illegal forex dealers who are taking advantage of the situation.
Mutare provincial police spokesperson Inspector Tavhiringwa Kakohwa said that police were investigating bank authorities allegedly in the practice of supplying the black market with higher denomination notes to illegal dealers.
“I was not aware of that situation, but what our position is, is that we will investigate this matter with the urgency it deserves,” said Inspector Kakohwa on Tuesday.
Ironically, the foreign currency dealers are operating at Customs House which is opposite Murahwa Building where the provincial police headquarters is located. Radio VOP