HARARE – The chaotic whirlwind of heated accusations and staunch denials relating to the claims of currency manipulations in Zimbabwe has reached another level.

This comes as the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) says it has identified 30 individuals who are abusing mobile telecommunications services and other social media platforms to promote and facilitate illegal foreign exchange transactions and money laundering activities.

The listing of individuals marks the first such move as the Central Bank has been in the tradition of naming and shaming “errant” business operations on accusations of promoting parallel market activities as well as those abusing funds obtained from the official market.

The country’s currency has been on a steady downward trajectory against the US dollar since the turn of the year. That slide has been worse on the parallel market which has resulted in a widening variance of nearly 100% compared to the official market.

The Zimbabwe dollar, which upon its contentious return in 2019 was fixed at 25 to $1, is now trading for roughly 87 to the greenback on the official exchange market and above 160 on the black market amid an acute dollar shortage arguably linked to unsustainable fiscal policies.

The crisis has seen the country continue to battle high inflationary pressures which moved northwards in September 2021 in both annual and monthly terms. This is despite the monetary authorities having said that they will use more than half of the SDR funds received from IMF barely a month ago “to prop up the currency” and promote economic stability.

The RBZ has refused to take the blame. Former Finance Minister, Tendai Biti is on record blaming the John Panonetsa Mangudya led institution for manipulating the currency’s exchange rate, but the Bank has shifted the blame to corporates and now individuals.

In a press statement released on Tuesday, Mangudya said that the FIU has instructed banks, mobile money operators and other financial service providers to identify and freeze any accounts operated by these individuals and, further, to bar them from accessing financial services for a period of two years, with immediate effect.

“The FIU has also requested the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) to bar the said individuals from operating mobile phone lines,” Mangudya said.

He further stressed that the FIU, in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, will continue to monitor various social media and bank accounts to identify and take action against perpetrators of illicit dealings.

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