BY FARAI MATIASHE
EcoCash agents and money changers have resorted to use of send money facility using personal lines to remain in business following the ban on cash-in and cash-out facilities by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) this week.
On Monday, the RBZ directed all mobile payment system providers and merchants to discontinue cash-in and cash-out and also ordered those who offer cash-back to stop the facility.
The RBZ is accusing mobile money agents of piling misery on citizens by charging premiums when cashing out, causing the Zimbabwean dollar to continue losing value in the process.
But EcoCash, which is owned by Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe, a subsidiary of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, believes that the RBZ is not addressing the root cause to the economic crisis. The
“(The) RBZ is supposed to print more money so that there won’t be any cash shortages. In the early days when EcoCash was introduced we used to offer these cash-in and cash-out services at a prescribed commission. This all started when there were shortages of cash. People had no choice,” a Mbare-based EcoCash agent, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said yesterday.
“Customers are coming to us looking for cash and we have resorted to the send money facility. We are buying cash from those who operate grocery shops and sell it to customers.”
In a snap survey conducted by NewsDay in Harare, some vendors and retailers in the informal sector were rejecting EcoCash payments, leaving some people stranded because they could not access cash at most banks.
In Mbare and the central business district, EcoCash agents and money changers who had disappeared on Tuesday were back, utilising the send money facility to trade cash with rates skyrocketing to 50% from 30% on Tuesday.
An EcoCash agent from Chitungwiza, said they were selling both bond coins and notes using the send money facility.
“I can’t sit at home while my family starves. I spent the day at home yesterday (Tuesday) re-strategising. Now I am back at work full time. If you have United States dollars, just give me and I will send your money via EcoCash,” she said.
Before the ban, mobile money agents had been capitalising on cash shortages to buy cash and resale it at a premium of up to 60%.