PROSECUTOR-General, Mr Kumbirai Hodzi said the State has gathered more evidence against economic saboteurs driving the spike in the exchange rate on the parallel market, in a development that will lead to more arrests and prosecution of the offenders.
Prosecution of the foreign currency violators will intensify this week, leading to presentation of evidence in the courts, while the compilation of the offenders’ dockets is almost complete.
The State’s Crack Team, dedicated to dealing with serious economic offences is handling the cases.
In an interview with The Sunday Mail yesterday, Mr Hodzi said the State is tightening the screws against economic saboteurs.
“More arrests, court appearances and prosecutions of the accused persons and their entities are going on. The investigations have yielded credible evidence and the compilation of dockets in some cases is almost complete,” Mr Hodzi said.
He added: “Prosecutions are going to be fast-tracked through the five teams that have been set up at Harare Magistrate Court. Each team comprises a minimum of two or three seasoned prosecutors working with Investigators. Another Crack Team is being established in Bulawayo at the Tredgold Magistrate Court.”
Mr Hodzi said the blitz on currency violations, which started on October 7, is gathering momentum.
“So far 14 accused persons or directors of accused entities have been arrested. In all the cases the State has managed to establish prima facie cases against the accused persons. The total value of foreign currency involved in these cases runs into tens of millions.”
Mr Hodzi said the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and investigators are working through a National Interagency Taskforce which is operating around the clock with abundant resources allocated to the operation.
In a statement yesterday, the Zimbabwe Cross Border Association (ZCBTA) secretary general, Mr Augustine Tawanda commended Government efforts to tame the exchange rate volatility which it said is being driven by corporate indiscipline, greediness and primitive capital accumulation on the part of industry and commerce.
“The current lawlessness and madness in the retail and wholesale sectors can’t be allowed to continue as it negatively impacts on the lives of ordinary citizens and other vulnerable groups in our society. ZCBTA is concerned that there are no corresponding measures being taken by other relevant ministries to curb this crisis,” said Mr Tawanda.
He said the Ministry of Industry and Commerce should conduct value chain audit on exorbitant mark-ups of basic commodities and deploy inspectors to enforce compliance.
“It should also create a hot line for use by the public in order to stem out this rot in the retail and wholesale sectors and also ensure that there is no major distortion in the price of basic commodities and other locally produced goods country wide. The Ministry of Energy and Power Development should take robust action against fuel dealers who access foreign currency from the RBZ at bank rates but continue to sell fuel in United States dollars,” he said.
Mr Tawanda said the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement should protect agro-based value chains and urged the Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development to revisit the concepts of People’s Shops and organise direct access of good from local manufacturers respectively.
He, however, appealed to the Government to open up space for cross border traders to conduct business within the confines of Covid-19 protocols given that over 300 000 traders have lost their source of income.
In a statement on Thursday, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) urged authorities to work with business to implement solutions that are not heavy-handed, as the arrest of business leaders will destabilise the market.
“As we had stated in our submission, a heavy-handed approach to a problem that has its cause squarely in sub-optimal policy implementation creating arbitrage opportunities would be unsettling to the markets. It is our considered view that the measures agreed at the consultative dialogue should be given time to take effect as they are going to most likely cause an adjustment of behaviours in accordance with their efficacy on the challenges being addressed.
“Essentially, at the centre of this is a policy correction, when policies fail we should not arrest people, we should correct the policies for efficacy.”
The blitz on economic saboteurs was launched on October 7, with authorities warning of more jail time for those caught in the net adding that the State will vigorously oppose bail for offenders who had become a security threat.