Banks are the major participants in illicit financial dealings at a time when the public is accessing as low as $50 per week due to the shortage of cash in the economy. This was revealed after a Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe manager was caught red-handed in underhand currency trading at one of the bank’s branches.
The bank manager Tariro Nyazema was caught last week by security personnel of one of the bank’s clients with an amount of US$30 000 which she had swapped for bond notes.
Reports say that Mrs Nyazema instructed her colleagues at the branch to exchange her bond notes to US dollars that the branch had received from the bank’s cash depot for tobacco farmers.
Witnesses to the incident said that Mrs Nyazema claimed that the “loot” was from her husband Peter Nyazema who was a currency dealer.
Investigations by this paper showed that Mrs Nyazema had a syndicate of currency traders at “Roadport” whom she supplies with US dollars from Stanbic in exchange for bond notes. In a snap walkabout around Fifth Street in Harare yesterday, most of the currency traders there said they knew the couple but added that they use a certain firm called Beak Peck Enterprises to access US dollars from Stanbic through Mrs Nyazema. The traders also admitted to working with employees from most banks to access US dollars in exchange for bond notes, which are traded at a premium of between 10-25 percent.
“We work mostly with bank employees to access their money. In fact we are their ‘runners’. We only get commission for selling US dollars on their behalf,” said a foreign currency trader along Fifth Street.
Stanbic chief executive Joshua Tapambgwa was said to be out of office at the time of going to print. Analysts say that the behaviour by Mrs Nyazema, a banker at a reputable bank which houses most of the exporting clients in the country, was a tip of an iceberg on the lack of integrity that has crept in the local banking industry.
“Given the amount of cash outside the banking system, we are convinced that banks are the conduits of feeding the informal market with cash. Banks should not take the banking public for granted through the abuse of offices for their personal gain,” said analyst Fiona Chigwida.
Mrs Nyazema was said to have been transferred initially as Stanbic took the case lightly, indicating that this was an acceptable practice within its systems. However, well placed sources say that after pressure from authorities, she was put on suspension.
The incident comes at a time the banking public is bearing the brunt of cash shortages. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Dr Mangudya has been on record on many times saying that one of the greatest challenges in the economy was market indiscipline that includes externalisation, corruption, side marketing and non-banking of money by unscrupulous traders.
Mrs Nyazema’s nefarious activities also give credence to the central bank’s assertion that cash shortages can be resolved by ensuring that money circulates efficiently in the economy.
Analysts also say that while Dr Mangudya had been vindicated in his clarion call for discipline, rogue bank staff should be brought to book and severely punished.
There were also calls to expedite the establishment of a Commercial Crimes Court. Contacted for comment Dr Mangudya said the central bank was seized with the matter “and giving it the serious attention it deserves”.