Sunday, 10 January 2021

US$50 BRIBES FOR EXEMPTION LETTERS

SOME unscrupulous Government officials and police officers are allegedly demanding as much as US$50 in bribes to process exemption letters for businesspeople and travellers during the Covid-19 lockdown and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has launched investigations.

Lockdown regulations allow traders providing essential services to operate from 8am up to 3pm during the 30-day national lockdown announced by Government last week. The traders and their staff must have exemption letters.

However, some officials and police officers are allegedly demanding bribes of up to US$50 to facilitate the issuance of letters to unauthorised people intending to move around during the lockdown.

The same officials have also been accused of delaying issuing the letters, apparently to induce applicants to pay them bribes.

Those who can afford like illegal money changers are now a common sight in Gweru’s city centre after corruptly getting the exemption letters.

The illegal money changers are seen every day at places like Kudzanayi Bus Terminus where they don’t even exercise social distancing in light of the Covid-19 which is infecting and killing scores of people every day.

Last year, the office of the Gweru Development Co-ordinator was ordered to stop issuing travelling exemption letters to ordinary people and businesses during the Covid-19-induced lockdown by Government because of bribery allegations.

This time, it is the police and Government departments that are issuing the exemption letters. The exemption letters allow businesses and travellers easy passage at security checkpoints during the Covid-19-induced national lockdown.

A female miner told Chronicle yesterday that she was asked to part with US$50 if she wanted an exemption letter for her and her employees. She said she has trucks which are hired by artisanal miners to ferry gold ore.

“I was asked in one of the Government offices to pay a bribe of US$50 for them to expedite issuance of my exemption letter. Business is low, it’s raining and there isn’t much mining taking place. I wanted my drivers to have letters but they demanded a bribe,” said the Shurugwi-based miner.

In an interview yesterday, Zacc spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure said full-scale investigations were in full swing to weed out corrupt elements among Government officials responsible for issuance of exemption letters.

“The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission has received several complaints of Government officials and police officers demanding bribes in order to issue exemption letters to registered businesses and travellers. The Commission would like to sternly warn perpetrators of the vice that the long arm of the law will soon catch up with them. We are investigating the reports and would like to appeal to the public to immediately report the officials involved,” he said.

Comm Makamure said registered small-scale businesses were being affected more by such malpractices.

“Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021 is very clear on the exemption. There are no fees to be paid to obtain an exemption letter,” he said.

Comm Makamure said they had observed with great concern that some ministries and departments were taking long to process applications even in circumstances where applicants met the legal requirements.

He said such delays might have an effect of promoting corruption. Chronicle

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