FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube will this week meet with the country’s State security agents for a briefing on the soaring foreign currency shortages as government tightens the noose on highly-placed forex dealers believed to have “captured” the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and are willy-nilly pushing up the parallel market exchange rate.
Ncube’s spokesperson William Mutumanje, popularly known as Acie Lumumba, yesterday confirmed that his boss would meet with the securocrats this week amid indications that the Financial Intelligence Unit, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police would be roped in to play a key role in sniffing out the “economic saboteurs”.
Mutumanje told NewsDay that it has since been established that top RBZ officials were fuelling the mess on the market and would soon be placed under surveillance.
“The minister is receiving briefs, yes, and will meet them (security sector) this week. The minister is committed to arresting the situation and the security agencies have narrowed down the source of the criminal activities. It’s clear we have dirty hands collaborating with government officials and it’s only a matter of time now before government shuts down the aggressive influence of the black market and clean up errant government complicity,” he said.
He added that the level at which RBZ had been “captured” by the suspected saboteurs required the intervention of the security sector, as Ncube would not be able to execute the job alone.
“There are directors at RBZ, especially, who are holding industry captive. The corruption at director level of the RBZ is pure poison and there is no single business that doesn’t know that the directors are out of control. RBZ has been captured and the governor will need security sector support to clean that up,” he said.
Mutumanje said Ncube would release a statement over the crisis later.
The government dragnet is also reportedly targeting top politicians working in cahoots with officials at the central bank
The move comes as new taxes gazetted by government, uncontrollable price escalations and fuel shortages had all coalesced to create a sense of anger and despondency among citizens, who believe they are being punished for government’s unjustified profligacy.
Since the July 30 harmonised elections, the economy has taken a nosedive, with critics questioning President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ability to deal with the crisis.
Already, some retailers have either closed shop or hiked prices of most goods, while others have resorted to a multi-tier pricing system to stay afloat.
Mnangagwa last week claimed that the crisis was being triggered by an intricate network of currency speculators, mostly in high places, and tasked Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi to urgently craft tough policies and penalties targeted at illegal foreign currency dealers.
However, the opposition and political analysts said the move by Mnangagwa to come up with tough measures to deal with the crisis were unlikely to pay dividends.
Economist Eddie Cross said the move would unlikely produce intended results.
“The fundamental problem is that we have created opportunities for money vultures and we need to correct the policy environment and the only way to do it is to liberalise as (former Finance minister Patrick) Chinamasa did in 2009,” Cross said, adding that at the moment, the artificial rates would be difficult to deal with.
Political analyst Dewa Mavhinga said there was need for the government to now walk the talk, as Zimbabweans were fast losing confidence in the system.
“Currency manipulators are linked closely to those in power. Most are mere runners for the political elite. Mnangagwa should just act and not make promises that will remain unfulfilled,” he said.
Another analyst, Rejoice Ngwenya, questioned the sincerity of the government in dealing with the crisis.
“In the first place, there are laws already to deal with the issue. First, there is no such thing as foreign currency in Zimbabwe because multi-currencies are legal since 2009. Secondly, the Banking Act controls who buys and sells money, registered finance institutions, not street vendors,” he said.
MDC’s Tapiwa Mashakada said the State was the culprit in the crisis.
“The culprit is the State itself. Who is supplying brand new bond notes to currency dealers on the streets of Harare? Why are these dealers not arrested and why is government keen on keeping the bond note in circulation? These issues cannot be addressed by legislation, but by policy,” he said.
Another political analyst, Richard Mahomva, said the matter needed commitment from all stakeholders to succeed.
“There is need for absolute bureaucratic commitment to dealing with this matter other than having to compel an entire President to intervene over what financial administrators could have handled. Did we have to wait for this crisis to escalate, yet in this age of digital banking, we could easily trace the source of illicit financial flows?” he asked.
However, MDC-T vice-president Obert Gutu said there was need to clamp down on illegal parallel money market dealings.
He said Mnangagwa had to be tough to save the economy from total collapse at the hands of unscrupulous currency manipulators, citing Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s effective and successful stance against corruption in the East African country.
Gutu said people must not hide behind human rights mantra.
“Do people eat human rights laws written in a statute book somewhere? People eat food and not some fancy Western-styled model of human rights. Mnangagwa has to get at these thieves and deal them a sucker punch. This is not time for playing around,” he said.
“The majority of Zimbabweans are suffering as a direct result of these selfish and corrupt currency manipulators.
These people deserve absolutely no mercy. Let them cry out and allege that their so-called human rights are being trampled upon, but then who cares as long as the living conditions of the majority of Zimbabweans are going to be improved?”
Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga weighed in, saying those seeking to profiteer from the current economic situation by arbitrarily increasing prices of basic goods would be dealt with.
“I want to make this clear. There are those who think they have an opportunity, they are wasting their time,” he told a family function at his rural home in Wedza yesterday.
“We are solving that, and they will be ashamed. We do not want people to take this nation for granted. It came after bloodshed. It is pointless to note that my pocket is full yet others have nothing. It is pointless that others are in poverty, while you are full. So we will build the nation all of us so that we have a Zimbabwe that we all want.”