THE running battles between police and illegal foreign currency traders intensified this week as government and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe struggle to halt forex trade on the parallel m
Police want to curb the parallel market while the traders are desperate to earn a living.
A police bicycle patrol unit on Tuesday combed the Roadport area for the traders. They have since started routine patrols in the area. The traders were based at Roadport to mop up foreign currency from cross-border traders and visitors from regional countries. Roadport is one of the largest illegal forex trading sites for the rand, the greenback and the pula.
After the police raid, the traders this week moved a step further in defying the law, this time invading Africa Unity Square.
By Thursday the traders who include women from the Vapositori sect could be seen milling around in Africa Unity Square where they jostle with photographers for customers.
The raid at Roadport followed threats by Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono last week to mount a massive clean-up campaign to bring order to the forex market.
“For a start that (trade at Roadport) is illegal and we will take appropriate action. Just tell us where they are and we will move in,” Gono told the Zimbabwe Independent last week.
The traders have however vowed to remain in business despite the crackdown by the police and the introduction of the controlled auction system. Business on the parallel market has been low since the auctions started last week. It slumped further this week with revelations that most banks had resumed trade of the foreign currency. Customers can now access forex from banks at the prevailing rate on the auctions.
Traders who spoke to the Indepe-ndent this week seemed unperturbed by the new developments.
“The police are on our case but that is nothing new,” said one trader who claims to have four years of experience in the forex business. “They have been doing this for years. Only this time it’s more intensified.”
The United States dollar is currently trading at US$1:$3500 on the parallel market while the rand is fetching $350. At the auction the greenback firmed 8% to trade around US$1: $3 612.
The parallel market is a product of a heavily undervalued Zimbabwean dollar and a perennial shortage of foreign currency.