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Zimbabwe lifting ban on basic commodity
imports as shortages persist countrywide

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The Zimbabwean government has lifted a ban on importation of some basic commodities effected in 2016 to allow companies and individuals with offshore and free funds to import specified basic commodities that are in short supply, state media reported Wednesday.

Some basic commodities have either gone off the shelves or are now being sold at exorbitant prices because of speculation by some local retailers and panic-buying by consumers.

SI 122 of 2017 is the amended version of S1 164 of 2016 which the government imposed to protect local industry and promote the buying of locally produced goods.

The Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa, said that Acting Minister of Industry and Commerce Sekai Nzenza had on Tuesday presented to Cabinet the prevailing situation in the market regarding the availability and prices of basic commodities.

She said the continuing increases in prices had effectively pushed the commodities beyond the reach of many people.

"Cabinet further observed that owing to panic and speculative buying, products which used to be sold over a month are now being sold in just three hours’ time, a situation which is completely unsustainable.

"Accordingly, as a way forward, Cabinet resolved as follows: that the Minister of Industry and Commerce temporarily amends SI 122 of 2017 to allow both companies and individuals with offshore and free funds to import specified basic commodities currently in short supply pending the return to normalcy in buying patterns of the public and adequate restocking by manufacturers," she said.

Commodities that can be imported include animal oils and fats, baked beans, body creams, bottled water, cement, cereals, cheese, coffee creams, cooking oil, crude soya bean oil, fertilizer, finished steel roofing sheets, wheat flour, ice cream soap, sugar, wheel barrows, agrochemicals and stockfeed.


. customer searching for items at a supermarket in Harare, Zimbabwe | Coastweek

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Empty shelves: A customer searching for items at a supermarket in Harare, Zimbabwe. The prices of basic commodities in Zimbabwe have been rising drastically in the recent weeks after minister of finance and economic development Mthuli Ncube acknowledged that there was no real parity between the U.S. dollar and the local bond note. XINHUA PHOTO - SHAUN JUSA

Cabinet also resolved that government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, should support the productive sector through foreign currency allocation to ensure that they adequately stock up for the forthcoming festive season and that more resources be channeled towards primary production, particularly agriculture, with focus on soya beans and wheat.

Some retailers and wholesalers have been charging different prices for the same commodities based on the mode of payment.

A manager with one of the country’s biggest retail chains told Xinhua Wednesday that they had reduced trading hours effective this week to ease pressure on the stocks drawdown.


Zimbabwe police arrest over 100 illegal forex
dealers amid fight to curb price increases

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe has arrested over 100 illegal foreign currency dealers since last week in a nationwide crackdown on the black market, authorities said Wednesday.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently declared a war on the illicit trade, describing it as a threat to national security, following a hike in prices of basic commodities and shortage of some.

In a statement, the police said they embarked on a countrywide operation to enforce regulations that criminalize the illegal trading of foreign currency.

Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said the illegal money activities posed a serious security and economic threat to the country.

"Cumulatively, as from Oct. 18, 2018, a total of 107 arrests have been made for illegal dealing in foreign currency and 58 for blocking pavements countrywide.

"The operation is ongoing until sanity returns in all cities and towns," he said.

Illegal foreign currency dealers on Monday deserted the streets in Harare’s central business district after realizing that the government was serious about apprehending them.

Under a September 2017 law against illegal foreign currency dealing, the state can jail offenders for up to 10 years and seize cash being transacted.

The courts may impose fines of three times the value of the currency confiscated.

Other penalties include the freezing of funds, if the illegal deals are conducted through banks.

Before the September 2017, the Banking Act only allowed the central bank to impose penalties on offenders.

Business has been flourishing on the black market from where companies are said to have been sourcing foreign currencies because local banks have not been able to provide them.


Illegal foreign currency dealers go underground
as Zimbabwe authorities warn of clampdown

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Illegal foreign currency dealers on Tuesday literally deserted the streets in Harare’s Central Business District, as the government continues warning that it will deal severely with offenders.

The parallel market rate of the U.S. dollar to the bond dollar also fell drastically from around 350 percent on Friday to 150 percent Monday, but dealers said the situation continued to be volatile while prices of basic commodities continued to soar.

A tour by Xinhua in the CBD showed that most of the dealers who used to throng Sam Nujoma Street and the First Street Mall were nowhere to be seen, while just a few brave ones whispered to potential buyers that they were open for business.

A honey vendor said while the illegal dealers were not visible, they were still around but remained wary of the authorities.

"Just like me, they disappear at the first sight of trouble and remain underground until they feel that it is safe to continue with their business."

Some dealers have also masked their activities by remaining on the streets purporting to be buying old Zimbabwe dollar notes but they quickly admit that they also trade the foreign currency.

One dealer along Sam Nujoma Street said it had become dangerous to operate openly and had devised new ways to evade arrest by pretending to be only interested in the old notes.

The government in Sept. 2017 passed a new law against illegal foreign currency dealing that enables the state to jail offenders for up to 10 years and authorizes the police to seize the cash being transacted.

The regulations also impose several other penalties including the freezing of funds, if the illegal deals are conducted through banks, while the courts may impose fines of three times the value of the currency confiscated.

Prior to the Sept. 2017 regulations, the Banking Act only allowed the central bank to impose penalties on offenders.

The dealers quickly disappeared from the streets, only to reappear when they realized that law enforcement agencies were not descending heavily upon them.

Since then, business has been flourishing on the black market from where companies are said to have been sourcing foreign currency because local banks have not been able to provide it.

It is also suspected that top politicians and some business people are behind the illegal activities.

Two weeks ago, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared war on the black market saying that it was a threat to national security.

"A great threat to our bid to stimulate productive activity in the economy comes by way of non-productive, speculative activities operating below the radar but involving millions in precious foreign currency and bond notes.

"These nefarious activities thrive on different electronic platforms. New measures will be pursued to stop such malpractices," he said then.

Zimbabwe central bank suspends top managers
following social media allegations of corruption

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe central bank on Monday suspended four directors indefinitely following corruption allegations leveled against them on social media.

Political activist Acie Lumumba posted a live Facebook feed on Sunday night alleging that the four were part of a ring in the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (BZ) that was involved in illegal foreign currency peddling and gold exports.

Lumumba had only three days earlier been appointed spokesperson for a communications taskforce in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

In a statement published Tuesday, RBZ governor John Mangudya said he had indefinitely suspended the four senior managers to allow room for investigations.

"The RBZ wishes to advise members of the public that following allegations of impropriety leveled against senior officials of the bank namely, Messrs Mirirai Chiremba, Norman Mataruka, Gresham Muradzikwa and Azvinandaa Saburi, by Mr Lumumba, the Bank has found it necessary, for the sake of transparency and good corporate governance, that the allegations be followed through and investigated in line with the bank’s Employment Code of Conduct."

He said once the investigations had been concluded, the public would be advised of the outcome and appropriate corrective action would be taken as dictated by the outcome of the investigations.

Zimbabwe is reeling under foreign currency shortages which have led to a shortage of fuel, basic commodities and drugs.


Meat prices skyrocket in Zimbabwe as producers
attempt to keep up with prevailing 'black market'



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