Government has said taking action against Chinese looters will be tantamount to being xenophobic, as other foreign nationals and locals had also spirited cash out of the country.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
Chinese individuals and firms featured heavily on the list of alleged looters released on March 19.
This has raised concerns among locals, who have begun to question China’s relations with Zimbabwe after the country looked east following a fallout with western countries over human rights violations and a governance deficit.
But Finance and Economic Development deputy minister, Terence Mukupe, said externalisation was a nationwide pandemic.
“I think, let us not start saying it is a Chinese issue, it is not a Chinese issue. There are equally Indians, who are doing that, there are equally Makaranga, who are doing that, there are equally Ndebeles, who are doing that. It is a nationwide pandemic, so, then to start targeting a certain section of the population to say ‘these people’ that is now xenophobic as far as I am concerned,” he said.
Under the third category, where funds that were externalised in cash or spurious transactions, Chinese firms and individuals amounted to 114 out of the 157 accused, externalising $357 585 448 out of $462 257 646 in that category alone.
Mukupe’s remarks come as the Zimbabwe Chinese Business Association (ZCBA) has admitted most Chinese individuals or firms on the list of looters did not submit bill of lading documents between 2012 and 2014 when banks did not require such documents.
ZCBA executive vice chairman and secretary-general Carrie Li told NewsDay last week that most of the Chinese firms and individuals were importers and did not give back the bill of lading during the 2012 and 2014 when exchange controls were lax.
“After we did some investigations, the majority of them did not give back the bill of lading, but that is because some of their containers did not even arrive in Zimbabwe, yet, the bank already put their names on the list. Some were a little bit delayed but their names are already on that list. For delays, there are several reasons. Some who ‘externalised’ happened between 2012 and 2014, in those days banks did not require so many documents because maybe we still had enough forex,” she said.
Li said banks started asking for the documents after 2015.
She believed there was a misunderstanding between the banks and Chinese firms or individuals.
“Also, for some of them like on category three (externalised funds in cash or spurious transactions) we asked them what the money was for and they said it was for school fees, family use, salary and some say they bought material for the factory to operate. That mostly happened from 2012 to 2014 those days banks used to say you want to transfer so transfer,” Li said.
Last week, Bankers Association of Zimbabwe president, Charity Jinya, threw the alleged looters under the bus, saying banks were not to blame for any delays considering those on the list had ample time to make their submissions.
Chinese firms and individuals have a long history of flouting Zimbabwean laws that include tax evasion, blanket smuggling, and labour laws, yet little action has been taken by authorities.