RBZ impounds cross-border goods (03-07-07)

By Chief Reporter
HARARE – A Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe crack unit,
comprising members of the Central Intelligence
Organisation and police officers from the Licensing
and Control Inspectorate has over the past week
impounded billions worth of wares from hapless cross

traders and ordinary citizens ostensibly to
crush the thriving parallel market.
The crackdown, approved by Cabinet two weeks ago, has
resulted in losses running into billions for poor
cross border traders and ordinary citizens.
Last Sunday police descended on an arriving White
Horse Trans-border bus, impounding groceries and
rounding up all passengers and detaining them for
allegedly fuelling the black market. The crack unit
has also swooped on returning cross border traders at
a regional bus depot in the capital, Roadport.
Angry cross border traders told The Zimbabwean that
the police officers also confiscated their hard earned
cash, mainly Rands, without issuing any receipts.
The crack unit has also been conducting door-to-door
raids on poor ghettos, harassing residents and seizing
groceries presumably because they were hoarding.
Street side traders have not been spared the
crackdown, which they said echoed the brutal army-led
Operation Murambatsvina.
In Harare, several residents arrested said they had
their wares confiscated and later released without
charge. The police seemed confused about the exact
nature of the allegations against the vendors and
cross border traders.
Police spokesman Andrew Phiri claimed the impounded
wares were being sold on the black market and would
soon be auctioned at the official price.
“This smacks of theft,” charged an angry Glenview
resident who had 30 bags of cement seized by the
police at his home.
Official sources said government had crafted a
statutory instrument which awaited gazetting by Mugabe
possibly tomorrow empowering government to seize wares
from ordinary citizens without compensation.
Mugabe, who was still in Accra, Ghana, for the African
Union summit at the time of going to print was
expected to sign the statutory instrument soon after
his arrival yesterday.
The crackdown has also been complemented by a raid on
supermarkets by a crack team comprising soldiers and
police officers who are allegedly over charging.
The crackdown came after a directive by President
Mugabe weekend to slash prices of all basics to the
levels they were at on June 18. Mugabe accused
businesses of profiteering and hiking prices willy
nilly to galvanise hostile attitudes towards his
government in a plot he said was Western-backed to
effect regime change.
Business leaders have rejected this allegation as
“ludicrous” and said businesses were increasing the
prices of their merchandise in response to the sharp
hike in input costs, which are being driven mainly by
Zimbabwe’s stratospheric inflation – now running at
4,500 percent.
Mugabe threatened to seize businesses he said were in
this “dirty game” of regime change, further alleging
that they were fuelling the black market by trading
forex on the black market and starving State coffers
of desperately needed hard currency.
The teams enforcing the crackdown have reportedly been
paid billions from Reserve Bank coffers. Analysts said
the government objective to crash the black market was
“wishful thinking” and the crackdown on supermarkets
would simply result in empty shelves.
Human rights lawyers said Mugabe’s government was
breaching international statutes and that there was no
law in Zimbabwe empowering the State to seize
groceries from citizens.

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