Nqobile Tshili / Michelle Gwizi, Chronicle Reporters
ILLEGAL money changers in Bulawayo have devised new tricks to evade arrest following President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s promulgation of new regulations that may see offenders being jailed for up to 10 years.
Government on Monday effected Statutory Instrument 246 of 2018, which will see illegal currency traders being sentenced for up to 10 years in jail under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act and Exchange Control Act) Regulations, 2018.
The temporary law will run for six months with Parliamentarians expected to pass it into a permanent law.
Prior to the promulgation of the new law, President Mnangagwa described illegal money changers that are seen on the streets as “runners” working for big currency sharks who operate from high places in air-conditioned offices.
Following the promulgation of the new law, illegal money changers have vanished from their usual trading points on the streets of Bulawayo.
The Chronicle yesterday observed that most of the illegal money changers were operating from cars and those who spoke to the news crew said they had to adjust to avoid being arrested.
“We just have to do what we have to do to survive. We can’t just quit and say there is a new law targeting us. Some of us are now operating from our cars to avoid being spotted.
“Operating from a car allows us to monitor our surroundings and we don’t allow customers in our cars,” said a money changer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Another one said she was no longer conducting electronic transactions to minimise the risk of being traced or having her money forfeited to the State.
“I only deal in cash now. I can’t risk dealing in electronic transfers such as Ecocash transfers. I don’t want to risk having money in my bank account forfeited to the State,” she said.
Another illegal money changer said he has established a good clientele base with most of his customers reaching him on his cellphone.
“I still do electronic transactions and will continue until my bosses say otherwise. My bank has been consistently receiving more than $20 000 after every two weeks so until the bosses stop depositing the money, there is nothing which will stop me from doing business. Some of us have never operated from the streets so there is nothing to fear,” he said.
Bulawayo deputy police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said police were aware that illegal money changers that left the streets were now operating from cars.
“We are working out ways of dealing with this new challenge of money changers operating from cars and we suspect the upsurge in cases of theft from vehicles in the Central Business District could be as a result of this new development,” said Insp Ncube.
Meanwhile, three suspected money changers, all women, appeared in court yesterday for allegedly violating the country’s Exchange Control regulations.
Thelma Moyo, Chipo Muteswa and Rebecca Kurekwechuma appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Mr Lesigo Ngwenya who remanded them out of custody to today for judgment. They all pleaded not guilty to a charge of contravening a section of the Exchange Control regulations.
Allegations are that on October 20 this year at around 4PM police on patrol in the city centre found Moyo sitting on the pavement while Muteswa and Kurekwechuma were standing at the corner of Fort Street and 10th Avenue. The court heard that as police officers were approaching, Moyo ran into a shop and the cops followed and arrested her.
Muteswa and Kurekwechuma were also arrested at the scene where they had been standing.
In defence Moyo, said she was waiting for her friend when she was arrested.
”Its news to me, I don’t know that standing on the pavement is a crime. I did not block anyone from passing because people were moving freely and passing through,” said Moyo.
Muteswa and Kurekwechuma said they were standing talking to each other when they were arrested.
Muteswa asked for a speedy trial indicating that she and Kurekwechuma live in Mutare but did not say why they were in the city.
“You will come tomorrow for your judgment because you requested for a speedy trial and the court has taken that into consideration,” said Mr Ngwenya.
Mr McLean Ndlovu represented the State.