By Nqobile Tshili
Illegal money changers are slowly coming back to the city centre in Bulawayo while a majority are now operating from residential areas as the 21-day national lockdown entered Day 9 yesterday.
The money changers, in blatant defiance of the lockdown directive for people to stay at home, have started pushing street forex rates up again.
Government last week allowed businesses to trade in forex and pegged the US dollar at 1:25.
At the time, street rates were as high as 1:43 for electronic transfers and due to absence of money changers on the street, they went as low as 32 but had risen to around 39 yesterday.
The lockdown which started last week on Monday, is meant to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19 which has infected more than 1,3 million people globally and killed over 78 000.
In Zimbabwe, 10 have been infected and one has died.
The shutdown entails that citizens should only leave home for essential movements like seeking health services, buying food and medicines.
However, the illegal money changers who do not constitute essential services have started coming back to the streets.
Some of them are now operating in western suburbs as most citizens are not getting into the central business district.
Over the past few days, The Chronicle has observed that the number of illegal money changers is increasing by the day.
In the central business district, most of them were operating from cars in their main spots including areas surrounding Tredgold Buildings, popularly known as the World Bank for money changers. Some of them were operating along Leopold Takawira Avenue between Fort Street and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street while others were operating along Jason Moyo Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.
Another spot that had illegal money changers was along George Silundika Street between 10th and 11th Avenues.
At Entumbane and Nkulumane the illegal money changers are taking advantage of increased traffic of people visiting the suburban shopping malls to buy groceries among other things.
They are said to be also targeting diaspora remittances after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe instructed international money transfer agencies to start operating from today.
An illegal money changer who spoke on condition of anonymity said only a few money changers were operating.
“This is our way of survival. We have no option but to return to the streets. How come some people are going out to buy groceries. If we do not do this we will starve with our families,” said the illegal currency dealer.
Another one said they were getting their float from Harare but only trusted traders were being given the money as some have come up with “stories” during the 21-day lockdown period.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said police officers also observed that the money changers were coming back to the streets, defying Government lockdown measures.
“As we were doing our lockdown campaigns in the central business district, we observed that Osiphatheleni were coming back to the streets.
“We ordered those who were in their cars to leave town and comply with Government’s directive on lockdown. We will continue conducting raids on them,” said Insp Ncube.
“We have realised that they are taking advantage of the fact that some members of the public would be coming into town for essential services. These illegal money changers also want to take advantage of those coming into town.” The Chronicle