HARARE – Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa torched a storm in Parliament this Wednesday after he professed ignorance a bourgeoning black market where money is being traded at rates of over 30 percent.
Zimbabwe has, for more than two-years, been struggling with monetary authorities seemingly unable to address the problem despite the introduction of a surrogate local currency.
However, the scarce US dollar, the country’s main currency since government ditched the worthless Zimbabwe dollar in 2009, is available on the black market at huge premiums.
On Wednesday Zanu PF legislator for Shamva South Joseph Mapiki was the first to question Chinamasa about government policy on the sale of money at a time depositors are struggling to access their deposits from banks.
“What is government policy regarding cash barons who are selling money at rates as high as 35 percent?” queried Mapiki.
In his response, Chinamasa said he was not aware of such illegal transactions, pledging to investigate the matter.
“I would like to suggest that he writes down his question so that I can examine and understand if what has been said is true because I don’t know about it,” said the minister.
This prompted an outburst from both sides of the house, forcing him to say, “Barons selling money, that is outside the law.
“The Reserve Bank has been arresting some who would have done that.”
Chinamasa added that such regulation fell under the central bank.
Are you still the minister of finance?
However, opposition legislators queried his sincerity in claiming no responsibility for the current cash shortages and the burgeoning black market.
Prince Dubeko Sibanda, MDC-T MP for Binga North, said, “I want to find out if the Honourable Minister is still responsible for Finance and is still staying in this country?”
Mkoba MP Amos Chibaya added, “Banks all have queues but if we go behind Parliament at the 4th Street Bus Terminus, they are selling (money) in broad light.
“We want the minister to tell us if his inaction means it’s his money.”
Mapiki further claimed that Indian and Chinese nationals have become a ready source for money on the black market but none of them have been punished.
Chinamasa, who was initially dismissive of the issue then made a U-turn claiming offenders, including some banks and their managers, have since been fined.
“There is no law to send then to jail but the Banking Act allows the central bank to impose penalties. We agreed in cabinet for the law to be there, we are drafting the bills.”
Zanu PF MP for Zvimba West Ziyambi Ziyambi weighed in saying a law would not eliminate the illegal money market when banks are also aiding it.
“Even banks are selling it because when they ask clients to deposit money when they want to go outside where do they think we could have got it from?,” he said.
Opposition legislators could be heard shouting that it was absurd that those politically connected can still import Rolls Royces when the majority cannot withdraw even bond notes.
The speaker Jacob Mudenda then ruled that Mapiki requests written responses from Chinamasa on the issue which he admitted to be important.
Fani Munengami, MDC-T Glen View North legislator reminded the minister to include an answer on when John Mangudya would resign in accordance to his declaration to quit office if bond notes were devalued and inefficient. -Newzim