Econet insists on earlier set down as High Court pushes Ecocash ban challenge hearing to Friday

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By Mary Taruvinga

THE case in which Cassava SmartTech Zimbabwe, which operates Ecocash money transfer is seeking to nullify a Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) directive to ban cash-in and cash-out transactions will be heard this Friday.

This is despite the fact that lawyers wanted the case to be heard urgently, arguing the move has had a negative impact on the lives of the majority of Zimbabweans who are Ecocash subscribers.

Nyambirai and Mtetwa Legal Practitioners representing Cassava in the urgent chamber application said they have written to Judge President, George Chiweshe seeking an earlier date for hearing.

“The High Court agrees that the case is urgent but we have been advised that it will only be heard on Friday. However, we have written to the judges for the matter to be heard as soon as possible…” said lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa.

According to High Court officials, the case is set to be heard before Justice Alphas Chitakunye Friday afternoon.

Cassava filed an urgent chamber application on Tuesday after RBZ announced the immediate ban of cash in and cash out transactions Monday afternoon.

The service provider said the move will drive majority of Zimbabweans into extreme poverty and highly inconvenience millions of subscribers.

Seeking temporary interdict to the shutdown, the lawyers also said what the central bank did was unlawful.

“The directive by the defendant to shut down the Ecocash cash-in and cash-out facilities is ultra vires Section 10 of the National Payments Systems Act (Chapter 24:23) under which it purports to have been made.

“Ecocash and its facilities is duly recognised by the RBZ in accordance with the National Payments Systems Act. That recognition gives applicant and its clients a right to use these facilities.

“Section 10 only authorises RBZ to act in the event that the system has itself done or omitted to do something. The applicant is not punishable where some users are alleged to have committed abuse. The approach in that case is to penalise the defaulting users.”

The lawyers said there is no wrongdoing by the Ecocash system or its management board.

According to the lawyers, it would be irrational to take away the applicant and its users rights because a few users are abusing the Ecocash platform.

Cash-in and Cash-out facilities were halted Monday afternoon following a huge outcry from the public who accused Ecocash agents of daylight robbery, through charging up to 60 percent premiums per transaction.

According to the Cassava the application, Ecocash has more than 10, 5 million users, that is 90 percent of the adult population in Zimbabwe.