. . .VOW TO STAY IN ‘BUSINESS’
. . .DEVISE NEW STRATEGIES
Illegal foreign currency dealers have started devising ways to counter new measures by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe aimed at getting them off the streets and containing the black market.
The dealers insist that they will stay in business and the announcement on Monday will only add more work on the RBZ.
Supermarkets and pharmacies have been adjusting their prices pegging the US$ at as high as $100, deemed the premium on the streets.
On Monday, the RBZ’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) announced measures to stop black market dealers from advertising their illegal trade on social media. With immediate effect, illegal currency dealers using the WhatsApp and related social media platforms to advertise their trade will have their mobile lines barred and accounts frozen, while prosecution will also follow.
“The FIU, in collaboration with the police, banks, mobile money service providers and relevant regulatory agencies has embarked on an exercise to identify and take action against individuals who create, advertise on or participate (actively or passively) in WhatsApp groups or other platforms for illegal foreign currency trading,” said the unit in a statement.
Due to travel bans imposed by the lockdown, illegal forex dealers had resorted to dealing on social media where they had created WhatsApp groups to interact with their customers.
In the groups, they would circulate the daily rates; make arrangements on how to meet with their clients outside the Central Business District, as travel restrictions are not as tough across residential areas.
In some instances, money changers even go to people’s homes to do their illegal dealings.
H-Metro caught up with some dealers in Harare CBD and they expressed mixed feelings over the new measures. Some said they had deleted their WhatsApp groups and would find other means to communicate to their market.
“We are afraid of getting arrested, at a time like this, when my husband, who is a teacher, isn’t working. I am the breadwinner so I cannot risk being arrested over a WhatsApp group.
“I will find other means to communicate with my clients. WhatsApp isn’t the only social media platform, there are others that are not traceable that I am going to start using,” she said.
Another one identified as Chenai Marwa said she would start using a foreign SIM card, which cannot be traced by local mobile operators. “Besides being money changers, we are also cross border traders so we own SIM cards from various countries, so for now I am going to be using one of my SIM cards for my WhatsApp group and we will see if I can be traced, my life is currently dependent on this business so I will do all it takes to remain in business,” she said.
Another trader said she is resorting back to how she was trading before the Covid-19 imposed lockdown.
“Before the lockdown, we had other means of getting customers, so for now I am going back to how we were trading.
We will just be at our usual places and our customers will come to us, now that most people are back at work, they know where to find us.
“As it stands, we are going to be out of business soon, so I am also contemplating using the money I have to invest in a more viable and legit business where I won’t be playing hide and seek with the authorities,” she said.
Some of the dealers, who were not willing to be named, said the RBZ measures would not yield success for as long as the demand for the foreign currency remains high, while the money is scarce.
“A number of seemingly strict measures have been introduced over the past month, but look at the direction of the rates on the streets. It is a dear sign that the measures will continue to fail because they are targeting us dealers, who are merely trying to earn a living from a situation as opposed to being the ones creating the situation.
“As street dealers, we do not earn much from the transactions, the margins are not that high, but at least we can live on that.
We do not own the money, we are middlemen and advertising on WhatsApp is just like what those selling fuels are doing, it is a way of attracting business on our part,” said one male dealer along Angwa Street.
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