ZIMBABWEANS who may choose to inflict any form of damage on bond notes could face imprisonment of up to seven years.
This is according to the newly gazetted Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill 2016 which seeks to create a legal basis for bond notes to be used as legal tender in the country.
The imminent introduction of bond notes has infuriated many Zimbabweans who have reacted in different ways to show their frustrations. Political parties and activists have filed court challenges and engaged in demonstrations in attempts to block the introduction of the surrogate currency.
But Veritas, a local watchdog on legislative issues, warned locals to tread carefully on how they dealt with the currency as the state could invoke some of its most stringent laws to ensure they did not undermine the currency.
The current RBZ Act makes it an offence to deface or inflict any form of damage on legal bank notes but the RBZ Amendment Bill has clauses inserted that make stringent penalties imposed on bank notes also applicable to bond notes.
“The new section 44B(3) will also make section 42 of the (RBZ) Act applicable to bond notes as if they were banknotes,” Veritas said in one of its frequent updates on legal matters in the country.
“As section 42 penalises amongst other things the willful defacement, soiling or damaging of banknotes, this should serve as a warning to persons who may feel inclined to express their feelings about bond notes by doing any of those things.”
Section 42 of the RBZ Act outlines the offences relating to bank notes.
The law makes it an offence for “any person who, (a) without the authority of the Bank, engraves or makes any material whatsoever any words, figures, letters, marks, line or devices, the print of which resembles in whole or in part any words, figures, letters, marks, lines or devices peculiar to and used in or upon any bank note; or (b) willfully defaces, soils or damages any banknote or writes or places any drawing thereon or attaches thereto anything in the nature of an advertisement…”
Those who violate these provisions are liable “to imprisonment for a period not exceeding seven years”, the law says.
It proceeds; any person who “(c) knowing that it is to be used for an unlawful purpose, has in his possession any material whatsoever upon which has been engraved or made any such words, figures, letters, marks, lines or devices as mentioned in paragraph (a); shall be guilty of any offence…”Advertisement
These are liable “to a fine not exceeding level four or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months or both such fine and such imprisonment.”
Zimbabweans have argued that bond notes are not real currency but mere bonds and are, as such, not covered by the RBZ Act.
But the RBZ has ensured this was not left in doubt, inserting clauses which elevate the bond notes into bank notes.
Zimbabwe’s bearer cheque notes which replaced the now defunct Zim-dollar more than a decade ago became too valueless that many were using them for other purposes different from their intended use.
There are strong fears bond cheques could go the way of bearer cheques.