The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has opened investigations into companies and individuals who are understood to be illegally manipulating the exchange rate for selfish gains.
Separately, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has gazetted two statutory instruments that prohibit selling, buying or pegging prices of goods and services in foreign currency in order to tighten the screws on illegal currency trading.
Zacc commissioner John Makamure told The Sunday Mail that the anti-graft body’s pursuit is being jointly undertaken with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).
“Zacc is mandated in terms of the schedule to the Anti- Corruption Commission Act to investigate any offences related to corruption,” he said, “and in addition, any contraventions of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act, contraventions of Exchange Control Act or Regulations and other economic crimes. We have engaged the Financial Intelligence Unit on the matter and we are looking into these issues.”
RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya said the central bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) will crack the whip on errant dealers.
“I need to be fully briefed by our unit on what has been going on since I have been away. However, we are certainly going to make interventions to protect our people,” he said.
Government has since moved in to officially outlaw foreign currency transactions on the local market through two Statutory Instruments that were gazetted on Friday.
SI212 and SI213 of 2019 – gazetted under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Exchange Control Act) Regulations, 2019 – officially make the Zimbabwe dollar the sole currency for domestic transactions.
They also impose civil as well as criminal penalties on companies and individuals who fall foul of the law.
Part of SI 212 reads: “Subject to Section 4, no person who is party to a domestic transaction shall pay or receive as the price or the value of any consideration payable or receivable in respect of such transaction any currency other that the Zimbabwean dollar.”
It also make it illegal to value, charge, offer or display goods in US dollars.
“…no person shall – (a) quote, display, label, charge, solicit for the payment of, receive or pay the price of any goods, services, fee or commission in any currency other than the Zimbabwean dollar; or “(b) settle any obligation by barter or otherwise for consideration that is not denominated by, or is not valued in, the Zimbabwean dollar.
“(c)receive, demand, pay or solicit for payment by means of any token, voucher, coupon, chit, instrument, unit of account or other means or unit of payment (whether material or digital) that is pegged to, referable to or used in substitution for any foreign currency or unit of a foreign currency,” it adds.
The same legal instrument also makes exemptions on transactions that can be made in foreign currency, basically payments by foreigners. These include carbon tax payments for foreign registered vehicles, third party insurance payments for foreign registered vehicles, road access fees for foreign registered vehicles or trans-border fees and services.
However, SI 213 prescribes civil and criminal penalties on businesses and individuals that continue to illegally peg prices or trade in foreign currency.
Many businesses have been either quoting or selling goods in US dollars, or demanding the US-dollar equivalent in local currency despite purchasing from manufacturers and paying wages in the local currency.
The indiscipline has subsequently led to attacks on the Zimbabwe dollar, whose value has been sliding over the past three weeks.
The loss in value has resulted in soaring prices of goods and services.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Permanent Secretary Mrs Virginia Mabhiza said the new statutory instruments were gazetted to address comprehensively rampant illegal currency trading.
“These new instruments help to reinforce the laws we introduced last year on Exchange Control Regulations and Unexplained Wealth Orders. So all these laws combined make it difficult to engage in illicit currency dealings. It is now up to the police and the National Prosecuting Authority to enforce these laws to the full,” she said.