Fidelis Munyoro, Harare Bureau
THE Government has gazetted regulations that criminalise cash vending without permission from the exchange control authority and empowered police to arrest money peddlers and seize whatever currency involved.
In an Extraordinary Gazette published yesterday, President Mugabe issued Statutory Instrument 122A of 2017 — Exchange Control (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (No 5) — to deal with the widespread cash vending on the streets.
This comes after Government’s realisation that cash vending had become a catalytic agent to the price madness obtaining in the country.
President Mugabe amended the Exchange Control Regulations of 1996, published in Statutory Instrument 109 of 1996, in particular section 2 of the principal regulations.
The amendment was done in terms of Section 2 of the Exchange Control Act (Chapter 22:05).
According to the changes, Section 40 (Orders) of the principal regulations was amended by the insertion of subsection (2c) after subsection (2b).
The inserted subsection relates to dealing in currency and provides that: “an authorised officer or a police officer acting to enforce any order — (2c) (a) may, for the purpose of holding the currency as exhibit in subsequent prosecution, seize any currency upon a reasonable suspicion that the possessor thereof is dealing in it unlawfully, that is, in contravention of any order or any provision of the Act or these regulations by virtue of which the order is made.”
The regulations further stipulate under (2c) (b) that during investigations, any offence occasioned by breach of an order concerning the unlawful dealing in currency, a warrant for the seizure of property may be obtained under the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to freeze any banking account of a possessor of currency therein credited, if there is reasonable suspicion that it was or had been dealt in unlawfully.
According to subsection (2d), a warrant referred to in subsection (2c)(b) operates for a period not exceeding six month or until prosecution of the offence relating to dealing in foreign currency is concluded or abandoned.
Subsection (2e) provides that for purposes of enforcing any order — “(a) it is declared, for avoidance of doubt, that any dealing in currency or foreign currency for which any licence, permit or other authority or permission is required by or under these regulations shall, if such dealing is done without such licence, permit or other authority or permission, constitute an offence against section 5(1) (a) (ii) of the Act.
According to (2e)(b), any person dealing in currency and is unable to produce to an authorised officer or police officer a valid licence, permit or other written authority permitting such dealing under the regulations, shall be deemed to have contravened any order or provisions of the Act or regulations.
The regulations come on the back of Government announcement on Wednesday that it has approved a raft of measures to arrest artificial shortages of basic commodities and the price madness triggered by economic saboteurs through social media.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa also pulled the trigger on traders who prefer selling their commodities in United States dollar notes and hike prices for those using bank swipe, bond notes or Ecocash.
At a joint state-of-the-economy address in Harare yesterday, Minister Chinamasa, his Industry and Commerce counterpart Dr Mike Bimha and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Christopher Mushohwe said the crisis was artificial and there was no need to panic.
The ministers said Government was seriously considering counter-measures to safeguard the economy against social media abusers, including speeding up the enactment of cyber-crime laws. Government, the ministers said, was also working on improving the availability of foreign currency to ensure consistent production and supply of cooking oil and other basic commodities.
Minister Chinamasa said illegal cash vending was rampant on the streets, contributing to economic challenges the nation was facing, hence the need to arrest the vendors and seize their money. He said measures would be put in place to end the four-tier pricing system where prices for one commodity differ depending on the mode of payment. “The four-tier pricing system where traders would charge a price for cash US dollars, a different price for cash bond notes, one for RTGS and another for EcoCash should also come to an end,” he said.
Cabinet, said Minister Chinamasa, had since drafted and approved drastic measures to sanitise business and the measures were now being crafted into a Bill at the Attorney-General’s Office.