GOVERNMENT has gazetted a law to curb illegal cash and foreign currency trading with offenders to face a mandatory 10-year jail term, as their cash is forfeited to the State, while their bank accounts are frozen.
by veneranda langa
The new measures were announced in Parliament yesterday by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, saying the stringent regulations were gazetted under the Exchange Control Amendment Regulations.
He also said the government would, with immediate effect, re-introduce price controls on basic commodities to restore sanity in the business sector.
“In order to deal with the scourge of people buying and selling cash, government has gazetted Exchange Control Regulations enacted by the President, and section 2 will empower the police to arrest anyone trading in currency without a licence and allow the police to seize the cash,” Chinamasa said.
“This seized currency will be deposited at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for exhibit pending prosecution, and the regulations will also provide for freezing of funds of corresponding value in financial institutions, where such proceeds are suspected cases of dealing in currency.
“Penalties are fines not exceeding the value of the currency and sentences not exceeding 10 years, and courts can impose fines of three times the value of currency. There will be amendments to the Bank Use Promotions Act to strengthen the powers of the RBZ and it will come before Parliament in a few weeks. The Suppression of Money Laundering Act will also be amended,” he said.
Chinamasa denied reports that the country was experiencing fuel shortages.
“There are 200 million litres of fuel in the country and this means there are adequate supplies. We consume 30 to 35 million litres every week and after the panic-buying this week, we have put 40 million additional litres into the market,” he said.
Chinamasa said they were still investigating the source of wads of new bond notes, whose pictures went viral on social media platforms last week. He said the problem could also emanate from artisanal miners that are paid in cash in bond notes because every week $5 million was being released to them, as an incentive, adding they could be illicitly trading it on the black market.
“As to the allegations that bond notes have failed, I categorically say that this is not the case. Their issuance has improved exports and they are a medium of exchange which cannot be externalised.”
The Treasury chief dismissed social media reports that inflation figures had skyrocketed in the past week.
“As at end of August, inflation was at 0,4%, which is the lowest in the Sadc region, whose benchmark is 3% to 7%,” adding the
$1 billion currently circulating on the market was adequate to meet domestic demand.
“With respect to the $200 million Afreximbank export incentive facility, $180 million has already been issued, which means the facility is about to be exhausted. RBZ is negotiating for a further $300 million to continue boosting exports, which have grown by 12% to $2,334 billion as of September 8 compared to $2,086 billion last year.”