Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa ordered anyone who had illegally moved cash and assets out of the southern African nation to return them within three months or face arrest.
“Huge sums of money and other assets” have been taken by “certain individuals and corporates,” Mnangagwa said in a statement Tuesday without naming them. He urged those responsible for “a very serious economic crime against the people of Zimbabwe” to act before the end of the period, which starts Dec. 1, “to avoid the pain and ignominy of being visited by the long arm of the law.”
The decree follows Mnangagwa’s pledge at his Nov. 24 inauguration to end cash shortages that have crippled an economy that’s in free-fall, with a 90 percent jobless rate and crumbling public infrastructure. His predecessor, Robert Mugabe, who resigned last week, said previously that as much as $15 billion in diamond revenue has disappeared and $4 billion from an “indigenization fund” meant to benefit black citizens over the past five years.
Mnangagwa, 75, came to power after a tumultuous three weeks that started with his firing by Mugabe on Nov. 6 following accusations by the president’s wife, Grace, that the former spy chief was plotting a coup. An intervention by the armed forces and a decision by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front to back Mnangagwa as its leader and to begin impeachment proceedings prompted Mugabe to resign.
The street price of hard currency in Zimbabwe has dropped more than 30 percent since Mugabe’s ouster. One U.S. dollar cost the equivalent of $1.30 in Zimbabwean bond notes on the black market on Tuesday, down from $1.90 on Nov. 20, according to street traders who quoted prices to Bloomberg.