ZRP steals forex from tourists

HARARE - Members of the police and paramilitary squads have begun illegally seizing foreign currency from tourists and moneychangers in an effort to supply the forex-strapped government with hard currency.
The crackdown, part of the so-called Tourism, Image and Communications Taskforce headed by

President Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba, has been ‘collecting’ foreign currency to buy fuel for farm vehicles.
Under this blitz, about 150 lodges, restaurants and tour facilities have been shutdown so far ostensibly because they “failed to meet minimum international hotel standards.”
Government sources said the raid was part of a broader plan drafted by the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP) to hoard money to buy fuel for its military as a precaution against civil unrest.
Zimbabwe has been critically short of fuel for months. Unconfirmed reports on Sunday said that police officers in Bulawayo stopped a busload of Zambian tourists and seized large sums of American dollars, South African rand and other foreign currencies.
In Victoria Falls the police were reported to have confiscated all foreign currency from major travel agencies and safari companies.
The hard currency seizures run counter to Zimbabwe law, which permits both residents and visitors to carry foreign currency.
John Robertson, a private economic analyst, said the government had apparently been forced to confiscate hard currency because its own appetite for foreign exchange was causing the value of Zimbabwe’s dollar to plummet.
Zimbabwe’s dollar, officially valued at 250 per U.S. dollar, has traded lately on black markets at about 850 per American dollar. Robertson said the government’s efforts to buy foreign exchange had caused the market to spike to as many as 850 Zimbabwe dollars for one American dollar. – Own correspondent

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