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Governor, Finance minister guilty of dereliction of duty

THE Governor of the Reserve Bank and the Finance minister are guilty of dereliction of duty in their failure to arrange the amendment by President Mugabe of the exchange control regulations and to legislate for the conversion of court awards from Zimbabwe dollar amounts to US dollar amounts.

This is all the more surprising in light of the fact that the RBZ governor Gideon Gono used to be quick to publish both statements which had little or no legal effect and directives in terms of Section 35 (1) of the regulations.
It applied only to authorised dealers and bureaux de change and not the general public and even then only in very restricted terms. He appeared to believe that any utterance by him had the force of law and that he could thereby regulate foreign exchange shops, gold, tobacco and cotton dealings and the like –– but he never had this power.
In March 2009 Finance minister Tendai Biti presented a Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme which claimed that government had “deregulated restrictive exchange controls”. Leaving aside the fact that the word “restrictive” is too general to be meaningful, the fact of the matter is that there had been no deregulation at all at the time, nor has there been any since the programme was presented.
In July 2009 Gono presented a Monetary Policy Review, incorporating his foreign exchange guidelines to authorised dealers. He stated that the Reserve Bank had embarked upon a comprehensive review of the exchange control regulations on the basis of the review and the guidelines, so as to make the regulations conform to the new monetary regime. Nothing has actually happened, however, despite the fact that the new monetary regime has been in place since February 2009.
The courts are floundering in the absence of legislative guidance.
Reserve Bank officials are reduced to making value judgments on a case-by-case basis. The public do not know where they stand. Various public pronouncements last year have been taken to constitute blanket authorisations somehow allowing departures from the (still binding) exchange control regulations that were published as long ago as 1996, but on rather dubious legal grounds.
The position is highly unsatisfactory. The governor and the minister should be ashamed of themselves.

M Nichols,

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