HARARE – Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa is under pressure to deal with the current economic crisis, as legislators from both the Zanu PF and opposition MDC called for his arrest, accusing him of promoting the foreign currency parallel market.
Speaking in the National Assembly after Chinamasa’s ministerial statement, MDC MP for Warren Park Elias Mudzuri said the chief treasurer must be arrested.
“…you minister and your team should be the first people to get arrested; you are arresting the wrong people. Minister, we want you to be arrested for the offence that you are misleading us that the dollar and the bond note are the same,” Mudzuri said.
This comes after the Cabinet approved a new foreign exchange law which will see unlicensed forex dealers jailed for 10 years.
On the other hand, Zanu PF MP Esau Mupfumi accused Chinamasa’s ministry of promoting corruption.
“The issue of corruption and misuse of money stems from his (Chinamasa) ministry, permeating downwards. Banks are given $1 million, and they are not supervised to see that they distribute the money to the people, because the money is coming from the RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) to the bank and straight on to the streets. That is why we see that there is money on the black market,”Mupfumi said.
The shortage of foreign currency has led to commodity prices in Zimbabwe to shoot up in the past week as manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers took advantage of a lull in the monitoring of price controls, blamed on a shortage of cash, to raise their prices to what they said were viable levels.
The country has also been convulsed by critical fuel shortages, with most filling stations rejecting EcoCash and swipe cards and demanding cash.
This has left many motorists stranded as they cannot access the cash demanded by fuel retailers.
MDC MP for Kuwadzana Nelson Chamisa said the government must withdraw the use of bond notes.
“The problem started from the onset of bond notes. Why don’t you remove the bond note so that it is no longer in use? We would want to have a currency that is acceptable to everyone. Remove the bond notes. Are you looking into that so that we use the multi-currency basket?
“Can you not have integrity and lifestyle audit for senior government officials in terms of ethics? You urge people to bank their money and that they should suffer when your own money is outside the country. Can you not have this integrity and lifestyle audit? That is important in building the banking sector confidence or confidence in the country.”
Zanu PF Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna said the forex shortages were being caused by RBZ which is buying gold at less than the world price.
“Why is it not buying at the world price because this might be a cause for illicit outflows and it might be your Achilles heel in terms of revenue leakages in the gold sector? Is RBZ only acting as a middleman in terms of gold buying and selling?
Another Zanu PF MP for Hurungwe East Sarah Mahoka said there should be equality in the treatment of people and the law should apply equally to everyone.
“Earlier on, you promised us that the US dollar and the bond note are the same. Why do the banks not use my bond notes and transfer them to my child so that my child can go to school without any problems. This is because you told us that they are the same. I sell my tobacco in US dollars, I already have US dollars. Why am I failing to access US dollars? This means the banks are promoting the black market. Can you please look into that issue?”
Chinamasa denied that his ministry and RBZ is supplying cash to money changers.
“Relating to the pictures and videos of wads of bond notes which have been circulating on social media, investigations are being carried out to establish the sources of the new bond notes on the streets. My ministry and the RBZ do not participate in buying currency from the streets.”
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) secretary for Finance Vince Musewe said Chinamasa is not capable of solving the current crises.
“The current conundrum is a cocktail of selfish economic actors both in government and private sector. We do not have national responsibility but each according to his or her greed. The informalisation of the economy makes matters worse in that you cannot regulate effectively. The root cause is of course fiscal policy more concerned with politics than economic principles.”
MDC secretary for Finance Tapiwa Mashakada said: “You can have laws like we did with the Pricing and Competition Commission during those years. Clampdown, yes we can but the market will determine the fundamentals and levels of the US dollar. So, what the market has told you is that the US dollar is not 1:1 with the bond. That is the message that the market has demonstrated. This is why if I want to pay my foreign payments, the bank will ask me to supply them with foreign currency. It is a statement that this parity is fallacious. It does not exist. I hope we can begin to address the proper value and exchange rate of the US dollar rather than pretend that it is still 1:1 with the bond.”