Going gets tough for illegal money changers
MONEY changers in the country are finding the going tough following the ban on mobile money agent lines and the introduction of daily transaction limits.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) recently banned mobile money agent lines as well and set $5 000 as the cap for daily transactions for individuals.
The central bank also introduced a policy that limits mobile wallet users to only one account per individual. Agent lines were being used across the country to cash-in and cash-out as well as for sales transactions. The RBZ suspected that some of the lines were being used to fuel the black market causing a spike in foreign currency rates.
Following the recent daily and monthly limits pronouncement by the central bank, foreign currency dealers had resorted to multiple accounts to sustain their operations.
“Since the lockdown began in March our job has become difficult as authorities are closing all avenues for us. Now this latest ban on agent lines and the cap in daily mobile transactions has totally frustrated our business,” said one money changer in Bulawayo.
Others have since quit the trade and opted for other income generating avenues. “Running battles with police is not a nice thing, worse as a woman. I have since quit ukuphathelisa (money changing) and opted for vending where I now sell products at home. I am not going to town anymore,” said another money changer.
Others said they will remain fighting for their space, claiming that business was still there.
“The squeeze on our operations by authorities is good because it has weeded out chancers and left genuine players.
“We have been in this business for long and know how to survive. It’s good that a few players remain and not have everyone changing money,” said another operator at Tredgold.
The RBZ in June this year introduced the foreign currency auction system to determine the Zimbabwe dollar exchange rate. Since the weekly auctions were introduced, the foreign exchange rate has stabilised and the black-market rate has been tamed.
Government in June this year ordered the suspension of mobile transactions to allow for investigations in the parallel market.
“Agent wallets are no longer serving any legitimate purpose and were now being used primarily for illegal foreign exchange transactions.
“Agents’ mobile money wallets are therefore abolished, with immediate effect,” the RBZ said recently in its Mid-term monetary policy statement.
When Ecocash was first introduced, agent lines were used for cash-in purposes at a low level. However, some unscrupulous individuals took advantage of cash shortages that the country is facing to fleece members of the public, charging almost 100 percent to cash out. The RBZ said agents who currently had funds in their accounts would transfer them into their bank accounts after providing sources of the money.
“Agents currently holding value in suspended and frozen wallets shall be allowed to liquidate the funds to their bank accounts, upon the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) having satisfied itself of the legitimacy of the source of the funds,” said the Apex Bank.
When the RBZ suspended and froze agent and bulk-payer wallets in June, mobile money operators allowed illegal foreign currency dealers to use multiple individual wallets as a means to bypass the transaction limits and continue with their illicit transactions.
“Mobile money operators shall, with immediate effect, close all multiple wallets, and allow just one wallet per individual,” directed the RBZ.
-New Ziana/Business Reporter