THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) last week issued a statement announcing an immediate blanket ban of EcoCash cash-in, cash-out and cash-back facilities, amid allegations that its agents were fanning chaos on the money market through their uncouth and nefarious transaction activities.
Before the ban, EcoCash agents had gone overdrive, exacting about 40% to 50% from their clients for cash-out.
Cassava Smartec, Econet Zimbabwe’s administrator of EcoCash, immediately approached the courts last week, appealing the central bank’s decision to ban its cash-in, cash-out and cash-back platforms, while also tacitly threatening closure of the entire mobile money platform activities, consequently throwing Zimbabwe into what could have been an unprecedented cash crunch dilemma.
And the reason for the urgent chamber application by Cassava?
It had its more than 10 million EcoCash clients at heart.
Still last week on Wednesday, the circus got even worse, with the RBZ apparently conceding ground to EcoCash Zimbabwe, probably after feeling the heat as a result of Cassava’s appeal, this time saying EcoCash agent line holders could carry on with the rest of their activities as prior to the ban last Monday, except for the cash-out platform whose withdrawal cap it put at ZWL100 per transaction.
If this is not holding government to ransom, then what else is?
By the way, the ratio of EcoCash agents to clients currently stands at 1:20, making it a “monitory” authority in its own right!
Many have asked if this status does not make the EcoCash platform an albatross around the country’s neck.
This brings us to the issue of oligarchies – a small group of people running the State in Zimbabwe, of which Econet Zimbabwe could be one.
Other oligarchs in the country’s mainstream economy are found in the agriculture sector. Of note here is businessperson Kudakwashe Tagwirei of Sakunda/Trafigura, a fuel guru, who in the last farming season was allotted the responsibility of administering the Command Agriculture programme before authorities in Harare found his role to be riddled with inconsistencies.
Sakunda’s role was to bankroll all major farming activities in Zimbabwe using its own financial resources in return for Treasury Bills.
When the TBs finally matured this year, yielding over $3 billion, Sakunda invaded the illegal forex exchange market, swooping on every United States dollar available, in the process causing a steep rise in the exchange rate, and with that triggering hyperinflation.
Prices of goods and services also went amok, causing government to intervene by freezing Sakunda Holdings’ accounts, preempting what could have pontentially resulted in mass revolt against the government.
People like Isaac Levy are other such oligarchs with the capacity to determine the direction Zimbabwe can take. Softwares used at Zimbabwe’s border posts and tollgates are the responsibility of Levy and his South African counterparts.
Clearly, these softwares could have salient features that could relay to them classified information, in the process tempering with the country’s security systens.
There are many other oligarchs in Zimbabwe whose capacity to reduce those with political power to mere automatons if care is not taken.
Some of the potential oligarchs include Iàn McMillan of the Midlands province.
Many illegal artisanal gold miners in Kwekwe and surrounding areas deliver their products to him.
People in his position often bypass Fidelity Printers, “smuggling” the gold out of the country and into lucrative markets outside the Zimbabwe.
Many youthful politicians have often befriended people in McMillan’s position, sometimes getting kickbacks beyond their wildest expectations.
Some among them are now proud owners of Lamborghinis and sprawling mansions.
But the “gifts” to these young politicians – including some young MPs – are not entirely free as sometimes they will have to influence the crafting of legislation that favours their benefactors!