Zimbabwean police will arrest dealers trading foreign currency on the streets and seize whatever banknotes they have on them, President Robert Mugabe’s government has announced.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the authorities will freeze the accounts of those doing illicit forex transactions through the banks.
“We are taking measures to make sure police are empowered to arrest such people, to seize whatever currencies are involved in the transactions,” Chinamasa said, in comments carried by state ZTV late on Wednesday.
“We are going to go further where we establish that the transactions were done through banking accounts the regulations will empower the freezing of those accounts,” he added.
A black market trade in scarce foreign currency has resurfaced. Zimbabwean bond notes, released 10 months ago at a value equal to the US dollar, were said to be trading at 1.60 to the US early this week.
Desperate account holders have to queue for hours at banks to get as little as $20 in bond notes per day. But numerous images have circulated on social media recently showing large wads of notes apparently in the possession of street traders.
The foreign currency woes have prompted panic buying of fuel and basic commodities, amid fears the country could see a return to empty shops and dry fuel pumps last seen in 2007-2008.
Energy Minister Samuel Undenge has tried to reassure the public. He told state ZTV on Wednesday that the country has a month’s supply of petrol and two months’ supply of diesel in stock.
At least $40m is being spent per month to shore up supplies, he added.