Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations Editor
The blitz against economic saboteurs started last night with the arrest of foreign currency violators countrywide.
Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi yesterday directed that violators of exchange control regulations be arrested without fear or favour.
“I have given instructions and a specific directive that all foreign currency violators, whoever they are, be arrested and be remanded with bail strongly opposed,” he said.
This comes as the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) directed JEFFM Auction Private Limited to stick to the official auction rate when selling its accident damaged vehicles and other items.
Police are disposing of old and accident damaged vehicles countrywide between October 8 and November 27 this year.
Vehicles, motorcycles, engines, radiators, scrap metal and other items are up for sale.
JEFFM won the tender to sell the properties.
This week, the auctioneer advertised the first sale that was conducted at ZRP Craneborne Workshop yesterday.
A fleet of old and accident damages vehicles, including Land Rover Defender, Toyota Hilux, Rhino Cam, Mercedes Benz, Mitsubishi L200, Mazda B1800, Honda Ballades, BMWs and Ford Fiestas, was sold.
In an advertisement announcing the auction, JEFFM set the mandatory deposit for those participating in the vehicles’ sale at US$3 000 or $500 000, translating to about US$1: 167 while those bidding for other items like car engines, radiators, batteries and scrap metal, were asked to pay US$2 000 or $350 000, which is the rate of US$1: $175.
The notice was in violation of the law considering the official rate is at US$1: $88,60.
It sparked debate and criticism on social media with people arguing that police were using a black market rate of US$1: $170, in violation of exchange control regulations.
After a spirited media attack, police distanced themselves from the auctioneer’s decision before calling JEFFM to order.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the auctioneer was directed to use the official auction rate in all transactions for the Craneborne auction and others to be conducted in other provinces soon.
“Please take note that JEFFM Auction management has been directed by the ZRP Command to accept payments using the RBZ official rate. Potential buyers are accordingly informed. We thank the public and the media for raising concern over the issue.
“The ZRP advises the public that it has taken note of the message on the pending auction of boarded and accident-damaged vehicles by JEFFM Auction who won the bid,” reads the statement.
Asst Comm Nyathi said if the auctioneer used the black market rate, action would be taken in terms of the law.
“If they decide to operate illegally, we will surely deal with them in terms of the law,” he said.
The Herald yesterday visited the ZRP Craneborne workshop where the auction was being conducted and observed that JEFFM was now using the official RBZ rate of US$1: $88,60.
Bidders were all smiles as their transactions were being done in terms of the fair auction rate.
On October 11, the same auctioneer will be selling police property in Mashonaland East (Mutoko and Marondera) while another auction was set for October 15 in Plumtree.
On October 16 and 17, JEFFM will be conducting another auction in Bulawayo.
The Chitungwiza auction was set for October 19 while more properties will be sold on October 22 and Morris Depot’s Police Protection Unit in Harare.
JEFFM will hold other auctions in Masvingo and Chivhu on October 25 while another one will be held in Zvishavane on October 26.
On October 27 and 28, there will be actions in Gwanda and Beitbridge respectively. On November 6 there will be another sale in Gweru while more property will be auctioned in Hwange on November 9.
There will be more property sales at Fairbridge on November 10 and at Chikurubi on November 13.
Auctions for Mutare and Rusape will be held on November 17 while another one will be held in Bindura on November 23. On November 25, JEFFM will be in Chinhoyi while the last sale will be done at Sommerby workshop on November 27.
Meanwhile The Herald has visted a number of shops in Harare and established that traders were still insisting on the black market price indexing.
A reporter was sent to Electrosales hardware in Harare where the tellers were using the rate of US$1:$165.
He asked for a written quotation in respect of four different items.
The items were quoted in local currency but upon asking the US dollar rate, the reporter was advised to convert the figure using the rate of US$1: 165.
On Thursday, a survey by The Herald showed that most shops’ prices were influenced by the black market rates.
The Herald visited a number of shops in Harare’s central business district whose employees unsuspectingly quoted their goods and services in both US dollar and local currency using black market rates.
Towers Nest Pharmacy, at the corner of Sam Nujoma Street and Jason Moyo Avenue was using the rate of US$1:170. A 100ml bottle of Sophyllex cough syrup was going for US$5 or $850 using EcoCash or swipe.
At Word Pharmacy along Jason Moyo Avenue, a 200ml bottle of Benylin 4 Flu, a cough syrup cost US$9 or $1 620, translating to the rate of US$1:$180.
Teecherz Home & Office, a furniture shop along Jason Moyo Avenue was selling a wooden round coffee table for US$145 or $25 400. A rectangular coffee table of the same quality in that shop was at US$140 or $24 500.
Calculation shows that the furniture was priced using the rate in the region of US$1:$175.
Food World and Choppies’ local prices were set using the rate of US$1:$120, a black-market rate that attracts more customers using foreign currency.
However, other supermarkets like Pick n Pay and OK were using the official auction rate, a development that saw money changers camping outside the shops, touting for business, by offering to exchange foreign currency before the customer goes in.
Outside Pick n Pay Jason Moyo, money changers will be offering higher rates to those intending to buy from the supermarket using foreign currency.
At Bakers’ Inn a Russian sausage and chips were going for US$1,25 or $200, while a steak-pie cost US$0,80 or $175.
Chicken Inn’s 2-piecer (two pieces and a portion of chips) was selling at US$3,50 or $560.