By Tendai Kamhungira
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has moved a step closer towards dealing decisively with unscrupulous Zanu PF bigwigs and business people who are involved in the illegal trading of foreign currency in the country.
As has been accurately reported by the Daily News over the past few days, Mnangagwa announced yesterday that he would soon use temporary emergency powers to crush the rampaging foreign currency black market that has caused untold economic upheaval.
He also warned that he would bring “grief” to some banking executives — including officials at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) — whom he accused of aiding and abetting the illegal trading in foreign currency.
This comes as the government has come under immense pressure to end the current economic turmoil which began when authorities recently unveiled a slew of measures aimed at reviving the haemorrhaging local economy.
“We need to show all offenders that crime does not pay, but that it is painfully paid for by way of compounded grief when it visits upon all such offenders.
“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,” Mnangagwa said yesterday in his weekly column in State media.
“We have to end this menace which now threatens the very fabric of our economy and society.
“Like I said, there will be a raft of other interventions which, for obvious reasons, I am not at liberty to disclose. Those who walk the straight and narrow need not fear,” he added.
The 76-year-old veteran Zanu PF leader said the presidential powers that he would use to deal with the forex criminals would not disrupt normal life — but were aimed at the ruling party bigwigs and businesspeople who were engaged in speculative activities which were driving the illegal foreign currency trade.
The planned action — which is permissible under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act — empower him to make regulations dealing with situations that require to be acted upon as a matter of urgency.
On Friday, Mnangagwa had also warned that the net was closing in on Zanu PF bigwigs and businesspeople who stand accused of sabotaging his government’s efforts to revive the country’s sickly economy.
“We are now certain and clear of the personalities behind these wicked and criminal activities and the net is closing in on them.
“We will soon name, shame and bring to book these gluttonous individuals and companies,” he said during a graduation ceremony at Bindura State University.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of a huge economic crisis which has seen the country slipping back to frightening levels similar to the disastrous 2008 hyper-inflationary
The country has been experiencing acute shortages of foreign currency, which in recent weeks have triggered shocking price hikes, shortages of essential medical drugs and basic consumer goods.
Long-forgotten fuel queues have also resurfaced, with most garages failing to meet the demands of motorists and industry.
Both industry and retailers have blamed the illegal foreign currency trade for the spike in the prices of basic consumer goods, as well as the sharp rise in production costs.
Mnangagwa said yesterday that the reports he had recently received “pointed to an intricate network of currency speculators mostly in high places and in places of trust”.
Last week the Daily News accurately reported that Mnangagwa had been handed a dossier containing the names of bigwigs and businesspeople who were behind money laundering and illegal foreign currency trading.
Interestingly, Mnangagwa said yesterday that he would also focus on the RBZ and some banks, as he sought to “cleanse” the country of speculative tendencies.
“In a number of cases which have now been brought to government’s attention, some of our guardians of the financial services sector have either not discharged their roles fully, or have not done so honestly.
“In other cases, some have colluded with negative elements, both inside and outside the banking system, to aid and abet these illicit transactions.
“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,” he said.
“It simply cannot be. Someone somewhere sees this, or simply winks. Overall, it is a story of sins of both omission and commission. Our whole financial sector risks disrepute, and therefore sanity has to be restored.
“In most economies, sudden huge movements of money or unexplained ‘swelling’ of deposits raise eyebrows. Millions have been moved unexplained in our financial services sector, with no one batting an eyelid.
“In the United States of America, they have the Office of Foreign Assets Control. We need a similar measure in our financial services sector,” Mnangagwa added.
The government’s recent austerity measures, which are seen as the first steps towards reviving the country’s economy, did not find resonance with the majority of fearful Zimbabweans.
However, Mnangagwa has said the country must endure this “temporary” pain as the measures take root.
The government’s new measures resulted in panic-buying and volatility in the economy, and also saw parallel foreign currency market rates shooting through the roof. DailyNews