THERE is a new breed of flashy dealers in town and they go by the name “money dealers” and whenever they hit the public scene, thousands of dollars are spent without even blinking an eye, well, maybe those watching in awe open their eyes wide in disbelief.
Picture this, the setting is a trendy pub in Bulawayo, a group of guys sitting at a table with female company talk about rates, transfers, Zipit and some stash of bond notes they left in one of their cars — or as well as the hordes of American dollars in crispy notes that they keep showing each other. If you don’t know any better you would think they are stock exchange brokers or some big shot businessman.
Alas, some of them a few months ago were just guys about town selling phones and other things — the typical “I buy and sell” dude.
“I have to be up by 7am so that I make it to the bank early. Some of my money is hanging, it didn’t clear so I have to see my personal banker,” says one of the guys.
The girls around them don’t seem to care or follow the conversation the minute he says “hanging” and “clear” what catches on is “bank” and that explains a table filled with Moet and other expensive drinks in front of them.
A bottle of Moet costs $100 at a club in Bulawayo and at least five bottles will be downed that night.
So how do these guys sustain their lifestyle?
“I started off buying cash just like any other citizen does, I would move around looking for the most affordable rate. I was mostly buying small amounts of cash for bus fare and the percentage that the cash barons were using then was 10 percent. I bought cash for close to six months and then it hit me when I heard other people complaining that they were buying cash at 20 percent. I thought of approaching a few of the people and offered to sell the cash that I had bought at 10 percent for 15 percent, it wasn’t easy to do because I was scared of the law,” said a dealer.
Seeing results, he had to think fast and deep.
“It took me two months to decide if I was going to take the risk of selling my cash and make some profit or not. I decided to tell the few people that someone I knew was the one selling cash at 15 percent and that the person was so private that he only trusted me to do his bidding,” he added.
The hustle took off.
“People started transferring their money into my EcoCash account and the following day I would bring them the cash and make five percent profit. This went on for some time until the people I was selling to began to request for larger amounts and refer more people; luckily the guy I was buying cash from managed to supply me with more,” he added.
The web is actually bigger than the ordinary guy.
“There are bigger fish out there. They get cash from companies that need foreign currency and most of the companies are based in Harare. They deal with the Bulawayo people because rates this side are lower,” said another dealer.
But not everyone likes this growing underground economy because it has negative effects on the country.
“These guys should be arrested under the Promotion and Suppression of Money Laundering Act,” said Dr Gift Muganhu an economist.