The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) yesterday issued a watered-down ban on some services offered by mobile money transfer (MMT) platforms, a day after government announced a blanket suspension.
RBZ governor John Mangudya said people could still do certain transactions as he moved in to correct a statement by Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana that had ordered the freezing of all mobile money services.
Mangudya said money agents were banned from facilitating mobile financial transactions and that merchant transactions were suspended except for receiving payments for goods and services with a $5 000 daily limit.
He described the measures as unprecedented and necessitated by the need to protect consumers on mobile money platforms.
“Following the government press release on the suspension of monetary transactions on mobile-based money platforms (One Money, MyCash, Ecocash and Telecash) dated 26 June 2020, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe wishes to advise the public as follows: All mobile money agents are suspended from facilitating mobile financial transactions with immediate effect,” Mangudya said.
“All merchant transactions are suspended except for receiving payments for goods and services as well as payment of utilities (water, power and airtime), which have been limited up to ZW$5 000 per day for the convenience of the transacting public.”
He added: “All mobile money liquidations should be done through the banking system (and) all bulk payer transactions have been suspended with immediate effect.
“These unprecedented measures have been necessitated by the need to protect consumers on mobile money platforms which have been abused by unscrupulous and unpatriotic individuals and entities to create instability and indiscipline in the economy.”
He said bona-fide transactions would be processed normally.
Payments to utilities and the purchase of airtime are not affected. Similarly, person-to-person transfers are not affected. Analysts also noted that the statement was conspicuously silent on bank-to-wallet and wallet-to-bank transfers, meaning they have not been affected.
Mangwana’s Friday statement also banned trading on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.
A senior executive at one of the affected mobile phone operators, however, said the RBZ directive was a huge climbdown from Mangwana’s shock Friday announcement.
“What happened is that a secretary for information and publicity, the government propagandist, wrote a statement — attributed to himself — directing a whole financial services sector to shut down. He does not have the authority to do that as that is the responsibility of the respective regulators, such as the RBZ [for MMT companies] and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe (for the ZSE),” the official told The Standard last night.
“The statement, announcing a blanket ban or suspension of all MMTs, was littered with unsubstantiated allegations, which sounded like a charge sheet. These again can only be levelled by bodies such as the Financial Intelligence Unit which has already been doing this.”
Other analysts reached for comment yesterday said neither the RBZ nor the SEC were aware of Mangwana’s statement, suggesting it had not originated from them.
It is also believed that the ministry of Finance, the supervising ministry for the RBZ, had nothing to do with it, since minister Mtuli Ncube had not commented on it by end of day yesterday.