Zimbabwe: Suspected Forex Dealer Challenges Prosecution - Argues No One Should Be Arrested for Trying to Survive

A suspected forex dealer, Albert Chekure who was arrested during the ongoing blitz against illegal money changers has challenged his prosecution saying no offence was committed as the US$ is legal tender in Zimbabwe.

Chekure appealed for bail at the High Court after his initial bail request was turned down by the magistrates recently.

The city of Harare employee was arrested on Independence Day while on his way to work.

He had transferred ZiG130 to a police officer who was part of the crack team, for US$10.

Through his lawyer, Tendai Biti who is a former Finance minister, Chekure said the State still allows USD transactions as such he cannot be prosecuted for using the same.

Chekure also appealed for free bail arguing that he cannot be locked up for transacting on US$10.

He said foreign currency means a legal tender of another country and USD is a legal tender in Zimbabwe so no offence was committed.

"As I demonstrate below, citizens should not be criminalised for merely trying to live and continuing with their own business," Biti submitted.

The former lawmaker said it is clear that innocent citizens are being criminalised as a result of the mismanagement and mishandling of the economy by the authorities.

"Chekure is fully and gainfully employed at the City of Harare...his entire salary is paid in RTGS or ZiG yet his obligations are monetised in US dollars.

"For instance, he rents a house in Glenview 7 where he has to pay rent in the sum of US$ 120.00.

"The school fees of his child is required in US dollars.

"He does not own a car and riding an omnibus to and from home requires payment in US dollars in the sum of US$ 3.00 per day.

"The accused therefore transacted to obtain US dollars for his survival.

"The State and the country's laws are thus criminalising the innocent activities of the accused and millions of other Zimbabweans who are in exactly his position," Biti submitted.

He said those being shortchanged include include prosecutors, the police, magistrates and judges who earn ZiG "yet the rest of their life is monetized in US dollars."

According to the lawyer, critical services including electricity, petrol, passport fees, vehicle license fees, groceries and rentals are paid in ZiG yet the Government is paying people in RTGS or ZiG dollars.

He blamed the State for being the author of the chaos that innocent citizens such as his client find themselves in.

"The State should not be allowed to harvest from its policy misdirections.

Among other things, Biti argued that USD are not readily available in banks.

He said only a few privileged powerful people had the right to approach and purchase US dollars at the Dutch Auction system until recently.

"There was no provision for ordinary citizens such as the appellant to purchase US dollars."

"It is thus ridiculous that the Government creates a situation where the economy is dollarized, businesses and the Government itself demands payment in US dollars yet citizens are paid in a local currency that Government itself and businesses refuse.

"The appellant is not a criminal and should therefore be released on bail," he said.

Chekure was part of the 65 suspected forex dealers arrested on April 18.

The suspects remain behind bars after they were denied bail on grounds that they were facing a serious offence.

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