ZANU PF youths over the weekend allegedly unleashed an orgy of violence on suspected illegal money changers in Kwekwe’s central business district. The restive youths got away with various amounts in foreign currency and the surrogate bond note, amid reports some of the forex dealers were dragged to the party’s Kwekwe district party office, where they were tortured.
BY BRENNA MATENDERE
The raid comes as government, under Statutory Instrument 122A of 2017, Exchange Control (Amendment) Regulations, 2017 (No. 5), has criminalised trading in foreign currency.
The statutory instrument stipulates that illegal foreign currency dealers can be jailed for up to 10 years and their cash forfeited to the State. Last year, police officers were given powers to randomly search or nab those that they suspect to be dealing in foreign currency from public places such as streets, roads, passages, parks or recreation grounds.
Witnesses in Kwekwe said business came to a standstill at TM Supermarket’s open space, where the money changers usually operate from.
“I was standing by the entrance of the local omnibus terminus when I saw lots of people running from the TM Supermarket. My friends and I went to investigate and we saw some machete-wielding youths beating up money changers and grabbing their purses. Some of the money changers were bundled into a truck and taken to the Zanu PF party office,” Nyasha Mahlabela, who operates a fruits and vegetable stall at the Kwekwe rank, said.
A forex dealer told this publication that the ruling party youths shattered his truck’s passenger seat window and took away his money.
“They shattered my car’s window and took away
US$2 400, $900 bond notes and 400 pula. My colleagues also lost various amounts. The youths just caught us unawares and raided us. Though I managed to escape the violence, some of my colleagues were taken to the Zanu PF party offices and tortured,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“Unfortunately, here in Kwekwe, it’s useless to report to the police any case involving the Zanu PF youths because that can worsen your troubles afterwards. Please, do not mention my name because I can be made to pack out of the city,” another victim added.
Contacted for comment, Zanu PF Midlands spokesperson Cornelius Mpereri confirmed that he was aware of the violent skirmishes, but insisted the perpetrators were not Zanu PF youths.
“The perpetrators of that violence were just simply some artisanal miners who clashed with the money changers when they went to them seeking to exchange their United States dollars in return for bond notes. They were not Zanu PF youths. A misunderstanding just ensued that is when the fights started,’’ he said.
Mpereri insisted he was not aware that some money changers were taken to the party office and tortured.
“The whole of last week, I was at the office, but I did not see anyone being beaten there, unless if it happened during some time that I was out,” he said.
Midlands police spokesperson Inspector Joel Goko told Southern Eye that he was yet to get a briefing on the skirmishes.
“I have not been briefed about that incident by our Kwekwe officers. If I get any useful details, I will get in touch and comment,” he said.
A fortnight ago, some Zanu PF youths raided Gweru bus terminus and extorted bus operators of some money in similar style.