In a crackdown on currency violations, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has taken action by freezing the bank accounts of 12 prominent suppliers of goods and services, including four supermarkets in the capital.
The businesses are accused of refusing to conduct transactions in the local currency and engaging in forward pricing practices, which are believed to contribute to exchange rate volatility.
Out of the 12 companies, ten are accused of forward pricing, while the remaining two are charged with exclusively pricing their goods in foreign currency.
The FIU has warned that repeat offenders will face the revocation of their licenses.
According to Mr. Oliver Chiperesa, the director-general of the FIU, “We uncovered 12 violators of our regulations, and we have frozen their bank accounts.
Two of them were businesses refusing to accept Zimbabwe dollars, while 11 were businesses using forward pricing.
The law only allows businesses to charge 10 percent above the interbank exchange rate, but we saw people who were using exchange rates of up to US$1:$6,000 and some as much as $7,000 to the US dollar. So, we have frozen their accounts for the time being.
Like we said, we are not just focusing on fining them. We are going to freeze those accounts indefinitely for the time being.”
Dr. Mavis Sibanda, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, has attributed recent price hikes to “market malpractices.”
In response, the government has formed a high-level committee to conduct regular market surveillance.
Dr. Sibanda explained, “The depreciation of the local currency against the United States dollar and the dollarization of the value chain, which has resulted in over 70 percent of transactions being conducted in the United States dollar, has had an inflationary impact on the prices of basic commodities.
“Market malpractices, which include the redirecting of goods from the formal to the informal sector, has been one of the major causes of the artificial shortages of basic commodities in the formal market.”
The ministry is currently finalizing consumer protection regulations that will include punitive measures for violators of consumer rights.
President Mnangagwa, on Friday, issued a warning that those found deliberately engaging in such malpractices risk having their operating licenses withdrawn.
Zimbabwe’s economy continues to face challenges, including high inflation, foreign currency shortages, and a lack of investment.
These difficulties have led to decreased production, declining export earnings, and shortages of essential commodities.
Despite the government’s implementation of various measures, including economic reforms and anti-corruption initiatives, the economic situation in Zimbabwe remains arduous, and a full recovery is expected to take time.