ZIMBABWE Republic Police (ZRP) officers are on a rampage demanding bribes from alleged illegal forex dealers within the Harare central business district (CBD) and in the process promoting their criminal activities, Zim Morning Post can report.
The rogue officers are technically charging ‘protection fees’ to these dealers where they work in cliques with marked territories.
In a survey done by this publication around Coppacabana, Market Square and Fourth Street areas, various police officers were seen illicitly collecting money from some forex dealers.
Some money changers – who spoke to this publication – revealed that they were paying a daily service fee to allow them to operate without the law officers’ interference as failure to comply usually ends with one being arrested and dragged to court.
An illegal money changer from Copacabana Rank said:
“I make sure every morning I give them US$5 for me to operate my business freely and to avoid my customers being harassed. Without paying, one risks losing their money and going to prison.
“The system is well choreographed; they have allocated themselves positions around the CBD and know exactly which team operates around the Copacabana area, Fourth Street or Gulf areas. This is more of a cartel within the police force. Once you pay service fee (mutero/chegumi), you will be free for the day and no one will arrest you, neither will your customers be harassed.”
An illegal foreign currency dealer operating around the Fourth Street area said if one did not pay the police, they would be arrested as punishment.
“Once you are arrested, they won’t take you to a police station, rather to some secret places (mukoto) where they will count your money and you will be forced to split with the team all the money that will have been confiscated,” said a woman who was arrested for failing to pay the officers a bribe.
“In some cases, if you are caught by one or two officers, we pay them ZWL150 or ZWL300, depending with the rank of the officer,” she said.
She further said for the past eight years she had been operating along Fourth Street as an illegal money changer, there was no single day she has appeared in court.
On Tuesday morning at Copacabana, Zim Morning Post saw a police officer openly solicit for money from an illegal forex dealer he had arrested for failing to give him US$5, adding the dealer had failed to acknowledge the protection that he always gets from the officers.
“You are stingy yet you operate freely. You failed to give me just US$5 yet you are holding a bundle of money,” said the officer while trying to negotiate with the dealer.
Another illicit money changer claimed there were rare instances during an operation when the law enforcement agents would play down the suspicion on why arrests were not being made, and during such periods few illegal forex dealers would be arrested and taken to Harare Central Police Station.
“In most cases, (illegal) money changers are thrown into police cells without first registering personal details and this is usually done to avoid paper trail after one has paid a bribe,” said the woman.
Reached for comment, ZRP spokesperson Paul Nyathi said they did not condone such behaviour and would initiate an investigation if a full report was made.
“We do not support corruption within our ranks and if there is someone doing that, then surely they are on their way out of the system,” Nyathi said.
He also urged the public to report any unscrupulous behaviour by the ZRP so that culprits could be removed from the system.
“The public should report any demand of bribery from our officers as we cannot just investigate without a report. Many people have claimed that there are corrupt elements within the police force but very few want to report those occurrences, and we end up having few prosecutions,” Nyathi added.
Illegal forex dealers have often been accused of inflaming inflation in the country, thus accounting for the rapid increase in the price of basic services and commodities.