Those who play hard to get shall come to grief

HARARE - Last month, President Emmerson Mnangagwa directed those who externalised money and assets to make arrangements to return their loot within three months.

The three-month window is expiring on February 28 and chances that the moratorium would be extended look slim.

Mnangagwa has promised to arrest those who do not take advantage of his act of magnanimity and allow due process to take its course.

He has also pledged to name and shame those who do not take heed, saying he has information on those culpable in this heinous economic crime retarding the country’s growth.

Since he came into power last month, Mnangagwa has demonstrated that he means serious business.

A number of high-profile politicians and businesspeople have been hauled before the courts on corruption-related charges and, from the look of it, Zimbabwe’s prisons will be packed like sardines.

To shirk the full wrath of the law, those who externalised the country’s wealth must come to the party by avoiding playing hide and seek with the authorities. Those who resist government’s sincere calls shall come to grief because the long arm of the law shall surely catch up with them.

On Tuesday, reports quoted Mnangagwa saying his call was being heeded and millions of dollars were finding their way back into the country.

The Daily News had also quoted Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mangudya earlier saying the response was quite positive.

Over the years, the country has lost substantial wealth through citizens and foreigners who salt away its resources and stash them in destinations they consider to be safe havens.

The RBZ estimates that about $3 billion was externalised between 2015 and 2017 alone, an amount that is more than half the size of the country’s national budget.

This has inflamed the liquidity crisis, resulting in a situation whereby the country no longer has sufficient hard currency in its financial system to pay for its external obligations.

The long queues outside banks are a microcosm of the crisis confronting Mnangagwa’s administration. The ugly side of it is that public hospitals are becoming death traps because they cannot access foreign currency required to bring in essential drugs and equipment.

It is therefore important that money lost through externalisation be brought back home to assist in the country’s development.

At the same time, government must make concerted efforts to restore the lost confidence which is making citizens believe that their money or investments are safe outside of their borders.

 

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