FORMER finance minister Tendai Biti says President Emmerson Mnangagwa should have provided proper legal instruments to enforce and clarify the amnesty he granted those who illegally externalised funds outside the country.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
Mnangagwa said the amnesty, whose initial deadline ended last week, has resulted in the country recovering US$250 million. He added that in consultation with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, he has extended the amnesty by two weeks and has threatened to expose the names of those who do not heed his call to return funds to the country by March 19.
Biti said full disclosure of the funds which were externalised is vital as enshrined in Sections 61 and 62 of the country’s constitution.
He said Mnangagwa should have provided proper legal instruments to enforce and clarify the amnesty.
“There needed to be a legal clarity reconciling Section 42 of the Reserve Bank Act, the Exchange Control Regulations and the amnesty proclamation,” Biti said. “But you and I know that even though Mnangagwa is a lawyer, all his legal pronouncements have been legally deficient, starting with the announcement of ministers which did not take into account the provisions of Part 5 of the constitution. So even though he is a lawyer, he is legally illiterate.”
Biti argues that the United States dollar is legal tender in Zimbabwe after the amendment of the Reserve Bank Act in 2009 to accommodate a basket of currencies as part of the dollarisation of the economy.
“When you talk of externalisation, you are talking of getting foreign currency, that is money which is not the legal tender of that country outside Zimbabwe. So after 2009 we have to be careful now because the US dollar is now the legal tender,” Biti said.
He said it is different from the period prior to 2009 where there was a clear demarcation between the local currency which was the Zimbabwe dollar and foreign currency such as the US dollar.
He said the key solution to turning around the economy is not repatriating the money which was “externalised”, but the need to focus on production in the country.
Biti said there is need for a clear definition of externalisation.
“Strictly speaking, externalisation is when you take money which is not your domestic currency and you get it out,” Biti said.
He added that the law needs to be revisited before one can be arrested for externalisation.
Biti said there is need to differentiate between externalisation and illicit financial flows. He said the country’s laws are weak when it comes to addressing illicit financial flows.
“So if they try and arrest people (on externalisation charges) lawyers will have parties in town because of the lack of that clarity,” Biti pointed out.
The former finance minister said Mnangagwa should reconcile the Exchange Control Regulations of 1996 and the country’s multi-currency regime and reconfigure legal language that outlines the offence of taking money outside Zimbabwe which has no legal sources of origin, among other measures.