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Zimbabwe Cash Seizures to Be Challenged in Courts

In Zimbabwe, a lawyers' organization is preparing to challenge the widespread seizure of cash from Zimbabweans, in the wake of the revaluation of the country's currency and introduction of new bills.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights organization is preparing to take the government to court to challenge so-called Presidential Powers Regulations. The regulations are used to seize money from citizens who have more than the amount stipulated by central bank governor Gideon Gono, who put limits on how much money citizens can carry or deposit.

Because of Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, Zimbabweans had become accustomed to carrying large amounts of cash. To make it easier for consumers, Gono announced a changeover to new notes. The exercise should be complete on August 21.

Gono alleged that most of Zimbabwe's currency was not in circulation, but was in private hands for money laundering purposes. And, he announced limits to amounts that can be put in banks or carried by individuals and businesses.

The ensuing crackdown has seen police, the army and the youth militia mounting roadblocks and manning border posts, where they carry out searches, and take money from those caught with sums in excess of those prescribed. So far, more than 10 trillion Zimbabwe dollars have been seized.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Otto Saki told VOA that the organization is consulting widely before proceeding with its challenge.

Another group, The Law Society of Zimbabwe, also says the seizures are illegal. In a statement, the society says the presidential decree legitimizing the seizures does not provide for the confiscation of money.

The statement condemns what it calls the arbitrary, invasive and degrading actions of the police, the army and the youth militia. It called the stopping and searching of members of the public on roads and other public places grossly invasive, a violation of the individual's right to privacy, dignity and integrity of the person.

The regulations grant immunity from being sued to the government, any financial institution, or any employee of the state for anything done in good faith.