Money changers vow to defy government

ILLEGAL foreign currency traders in Masvingo have vowed to defy a government move to criminalise their trade, saying it is the same administration that has ushered them into the streets because of lack of employment. They said they can only stop if government avails employment opportunities for the general populace.

BY Tatenda Chitagu

This comes after government gazetted a law to curb illegal cash and foreign currency trading with offenders to face a mandatory 10-year jail term, as their cash is forfeited to the State, while their bank accounts are frozen.

The new measures were announced in Parliament on Thursday by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, saying the stringent regulations were gazetted under the Exchange Control Amendment Regulations.

But hordes of foreign currency dealers dotted in and around Masvingo said they would not stop the practice since it is now their only source of livelihood in the absence of formal employment following the closure of several companies, while some retrenched or downsized following the gazetting of a law to fire workers on three months’ notice without benefits.

“The government is treating the symptoms and not the cause of the disease. Some of us ventured into the trade because we have no jobs.

We were once cross border traders, but the government introduced Statutory Instrument 64 limiting the quantities of certain goods which we were importing for resale.

So what do they want us to do? Instead of targeting us, government should create employment opportunities for us. We are not the problem,” one of the traders told NewsDay Weekender yesterday.

Another said they will play the cat and mouse game with authorities and they will find a way to evade arrest.

“We will always find a way. We will still do currency trading clandestinely. Remember this is not the first time they are targeting us, but we found our way back,” she said.

Some of the currency dealers said they are actually sub contracted by powerful individuals who are giving them the cash at a time when banks are struggling to dispense notes.

“It is surprising they are leaving the big fish. The President said $10 billion from Chiadzwa diamond proceeds disappeared but there have been no arrests. The police are harassing motorists on the road scot free, yet we are trying to earn an honest living. Surely that is unfair,” another forex trader said.

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