TWO-HUNDRED-AND-NINETY-FOUR people have been arrested for rejecting the use of local currency as legal tender and labelling them “bond notes” while 669 others were picked up during the ongoing operation, “Huni Dzabvepi-Inkuni Zivela Ngaphi” which is being conducted countrywide.
Some of the suspects were brought before the courts while others were fined between $200 and $500.
The 294 were arrested under “Operation accept Zimbabwe currency as legal tender” by police on June 26 when mischievous and paranoid reports starting appearing on social media platforms telling people that bond notes would soon be demonetised.
Some traders and business people started rejecting the use of local currency.
In an interview yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi urged the public to cooperate with officers and ensure the use of the local currency as legal tender.
“Members of the public should cooperate with officers on patrols and conducting these checks. We also want to warn some people who are victimising members of the public who are reporting to the police that they risk being arrested and face the full wrath of the law.
“The public should also be aware that the police are there to enforce the country’s laws,” he said.
He said the crackdown was continuing until there was sanity and warned traders and businesses that they risked being arrested if they reject any legal tender.
As far back as 2008, regulations were issued under the 2004 Bank Use Promotion and Suppression of Money Laundering Act making rejection of any legal tender a criminal offence.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Dr John Mangudya recently said Zimbabwe dollar notes inscribed “bond note” remained legal tender and should be accepted for all domestic transactions. This was backed up by statements from Finance and Economic Development Minister Prof Mthuli Ncube. Legislation that reintroduced the local currency last year explicitly states that bond notes constitute variations of the Zimbabwe dollar.
In any case, when bank notes are demonetised, there is a long period of notice while they still circulate, followed by another long period when they can still be banked if no longer circulated.
Part of the problem in Zimbabwe is that cash is hoarded, bought and sold without passing through a bank and so older notes become torn and worn. This is apparently what started the rumours.
Normally the tatty notes would have been taken out of circulation long before reaching that stage with banks routinely sending old and soiled notes to the Reserve Bank for destruction.
Meanwhile, “Operation Huni Dzabvepi-Inkuni Zivela Ngaphi” was launched by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), police and the Forestry Commission, targeting illegal tree fellers and unauthorised firewood sellers.
Those caught on the wrong side of the law will be fined up to $14 500 or jailed for two years.
“The operation is targeting suspects who are wantonly cutting down trees, carrying firewood without permits, those found in unlawful possession of charcoal and those selling firewood without the requisite permits,” Asst-Comm Nyathi said.
People cutting down trees for commercial purposes or selling firewood need authority from the Forestry Commission. Residents can still cut trees on their premises and may burn the timber for domestic use, but cannot sell the wood without permission.