ZRP, RBZ de­scend on cash barons

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Andile Tshuma Sun­day News Re­porter

PO­LICE have ar­rested three peo­ple on al­le­ga­tions of ex­ter­nal­is­ing more than $7 mil­lion through Botswana in a blitz that is in­volv­ing the Zim­babwe Anti-cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion and the Re­serve Bank of Zim­babwe.

Na­tional po­lice spokesper­son Se­nior As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Char­ity Charamba con­firmed the ar­rest and urged peo­ple to de­sist from sell­ing and ex­ter­nal­is­ing cash.

“We strongly ad­vise mem­bers of the pub­lic to de­sist from all ac­tiv­i­ties that in­volve sell­ing and ex­ter­nal­is­ing cash as they will be charged and sent to jail if con­victed. As it is, we have ar­rested three peo­ple who have ex­ter­nalised over $7 mil­lion to Botswana and they are set to ap­pear in court soon. The two are a cou­ple and were work­ing to­gether. Mem­bers of the pub­lic should also de­sist from hoard­ing cash as they are at risk of be­ing tar­geted by robbers,” she said.

The blitz is set to be es­ca­lated in the com­ing weeks as the au­thor­i­ties try to bring nor­mally in the sec­tor.

Zacc spokesper­son Mrs Phyl­lis Chikun­dura said the na­tion­wide cam­paign was also tar­get­ing su­per­mar­kets, bank tell­ers and mo­bile money agents.

“We are work­ing with RBZ and the po­lice to try and deal with this thing af­fect­ing our economy once and for all. One won­ders how while some peo­ple are queu­ing all day at banks just to get $20, some­one has thou­sands of cash to sell at ex­or­bi­tant in­ter­ests to des­per­ate mem­bers of the pub­lic. We know that this is a syn­di­cate and we are going to round them all up. Our au­di­tors and po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing and a lot of ground has been cov­ered. The long arm of the law will soon de­scend on the crim­i­nals,” she said.

In an in­ter­view, RBZ Dr John Man­gudya added that the blitz was not nec­es­sar­ily meant to take peo­ple’s money but to en­cour­age the cul­ture of bank­ing so that the money can cir­cu­late.

“This cam­paign is meant to pro­mote a bank­ing cul­ture and dis­cour­age hoard­ing of cash to im­prove circulation.

Money is like blood and it needs to cir­cu­late freely for the economy to func­tion and flour­ish. We dis­cour­age cash hord­ing and cash ex­ter­nal­i­sa­tion and are work­ing with the Zim­babwe Anti Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion and the po­lice to curb the cash hord­ing and cash sell­ing cul­ture that is plagu­ing our economy,” he said.

He ad­vised the pub­lic to re­port any cases of un­law­ful cash deal­ings to the po­lice.

“We are not an ar­rest­ing en­tity how­ever, we urge the pub­lic not to be silent. Re­port all these il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties to the po­lice and do not op­er­ate in the il­le­gal deal­ings be­cause par­tak­ing in them means that these black mar­ket deal­ings will flour­ish,” he said.

A sur­vey by Sun­day News last week also re­vealed that the business of sell­ing cash in Bu­l­awayo was gain­ing trac­tion. Des­per­ate peo­ple are buy­ing cash at com­mis­sions as high as 30 per­cent. Asked if they knew that it was il­le­gal to sell money, some said they were trying to make a liv­ing.

“I know that this business is not le­git­i­mate but I have since found a way to help peo­ple and also earn some­thing for my­self. I deal in cash all day and if some­one comes and of­fers me a lit­tle to­ken, I re­serve some cash for them, I would def­i­nitely do it be­cause times are hard,” said a lo­cal dealer who only iden­ti­fied him­self as Tawanda.

Most cash agents have mid­dle men who do the tout­ing for cash buy­ing as some do not trust walk in cus­tomers.

A cash dealer said he uses con­tacts in his var­i­ous What­sApp groups to mar­ket the business. “At least I trust my con­tacts in the groups.” An­other dealer said he moves around banks tar­get­ing peo­ple queue­ing to with­draw money. He said he has ac­quired a swipe ma­chine and the money is cred­ited to his ac­count.

“I just tar­get peo­ple who would have stood for a long time in bank queues, es­pe­cially on pay dates for civil ser­vants and make them swipe the money and I give them the cash. For ev­ery $100 I charge $10,” said an­other dealer who op­er­ates along Her­bert Chitepo.

Some peo­ple also said be­cause of the prob­lems they were fac­ing in trying to ac­cess cash from banks, it was bet­ter to buy cash.

“I work in Tshe­lanyemba and I do not have the time to queue for $20 a day. I need the whole week to with­draw $100. So ever since a work­mate in­tro­duced me to an agent, I always ap­proach them ev­ery pay day to get my money. It is con­ve­nient and the cost is worth it at the end of the day,” said Mrs Nancy Vundla, a teacher from the area.

As part of mar­ket­ing the blitz, Zacc has also launched a so­cial me­dia cam­paign to en­cour­age the pub­lic to ex­pose those that are in the prac­tice of sell­ing cash at ex­or­bi­tant in­ter­est rates to the pub­lic. A face­book post on the com­mis­sion’s Face­book page states that the or­gan­i­sa­tion was en­gag­ing the fi­nan­cial in­tel­li­gence team to ar­rest those in­volved in sell­ing cash.

“Re­port any­one sell­ing cash now. It is il­le­gal to charge peo­ple ex­or­bi­tant com­mis­sions/per­cent­ages/bribes to ac­cess their hard-earned money. If an EcoCash agent charges you more, re­port. If any­one is charg­ing you any per­cent­age to get money re­port now,” said Zacc on Face­book.

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