Security details yesterday pushed back illegal foreign currency dealers from the Meikles Hotel where President Emmerson Mnangagwa was meeting a high-profile delegation of Chinese investors.
Mnangagwa arrived in his motorcade to an unusually clean Third Street and Second Street after the money changers were driven to Fourth Street.
Security details used moral suasion instead of arrests to convince the dealers to move to Fourth Street, saying “vakuru vari kuuya (the leadership is coming)”.
Mnangagwa later met the 60-strong delegation of prospective investors at the Zimbabwe-China Business Forum at the five-star hotel.
This comes just after Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa told the National Assembly during a debate on the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill last week that the police had allowed the illegal trading in currency to flourish on the streets despite laws on the statute books empowering police to arrest unlicensed foreign currency traders.
While repeated efforts to obtain comment from police national chief spokesperson Charity Charamba and her deputy Paul Nyathi were fruitless as their mobile phones went unanswered, Charamba told the State media in January that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) was finding it difficult to bring the illegal forex traders to book.
“We, as the ZRP, have deployed officers in the streets to curtail the mushika-shika, street vendors and illegal forex traders as our main priority.
“However, it has been difficult to arrest cash vendors as it requires an officer of law to witness the culprits exchanging money,” she said then.
“This operation is a joint venture with the Harare City Council to bring sanity in the central business district (CBD), which has witnessed several arrests of cash vendors.”
Charamba said illegal forex dealers were slippery because some of them are always mobile, while others use their vehicles as convenient “offices” to conduct their business.
“Some of them are mobile and in most cases they get into vehicles and conduct their illegal deals.
“There is need to find a lasting solution such as deterrent sentences,” she said.
The police spokesperson also noted that it was not an offence to hold cash.