ZIMBABWEANS holding on to large amounts of old bearer cheques have devised new tricks of dealing with RBZ governor Gideon Gono’s deadline of August 21.
The Zimbabwe Independent this week discovered that Bulawayo residents were visiting retail
outlets and exchanging the old currency for new notes for a fee.
The majority of those exchanging the money were foreign currency dealers who were holding on to amounts running into billions of dollars before the new measures were introduced last week.
Investigations by this newspaper showed that those with large amounts of money were targeting garages, hair salons, supermarkets, butcheries, newspaper vendors, departmental stores and retail outlets to exchange the old bearer cheques for new ones.
“The system is not foolproof. As long as the currencies work concurrently, there will always be a way of beating the system,” said a cashier at a clothing outlet, who said she exchanged $400 million of the new notes and charged a 10% fee of $40 million for the transaction.
The cashier then pocketed the money levied on the transaction.
Last week several people also managed to bring into the country billions of dollars through the Bulawayo-Francistown train that was not being searched until Thursday, three days after Gono gave his ultimatum.
Economic commentator Eric Bloch said the RBZ’s move to crack down on money launderers had been successful judging from the amounts recovered so far.
He said it was difficult to devise a 100% foolproof system on such undertakings.
“The main idea of the exercise was to trap some of the money fuelling the black market. There was a lot of money being hoarded and the amount recovered will help to stabilise the economy and reduce significantly the parallel market and the rate of inflation,” Bloch said.
He however said the manner the law enforcement agents went about carrying out the exercise was not the best.
“The police are treating all citizens as being guilty until proven innocent. We have people who got money legitimately being arrested and that is wrong for the police to do,” Bloch said.
“There is money legitimately acquired like money for paying salaries on a farm but you have people arrested for that and I know of three people (who have experienced) something like that. That is very wrong.”
Other people with lots of money are resorting to buying cattle, properties and converting the old notes into foreign currency.
A local retail manager said foreign currency dealers exchanged $2 billion of the old bearer cheques after purchasing clothing worth $100 million.
Sources in the retail trade said money changers were offering a rate of 20% of the amount converted into the new currency.
“People have devised various means of beating the system and instead of carrying the cash in large amounts they are transporting it in small amounts ranging from $50 million to $90 million. Just yesterday one fuel dealer exchanged $3 billion in nine trips at a local supermarket,” said a source.