By Alois Vinga
THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Friday ordered EcoCash and other mobile money service operators to close all multiple wallets and allot one per individual in a bid to further choke a thriving illegal foreign exchange market.
Presenting the Monetary Policy Statement (MPS), RBZ governor John Mangudya said the directive comes after noticing that illegal foreign currency dealers were now using multiple individual e-wallets as a means to bypass transaction limits recently imposed by the apex bank.
“Mobile money operators shall, with immediate effect, close all multiple wallets, and allow just one wallet per individual,” he said.
Retailers and other service providers were the only sectors still permitted to continue operating merchant wallets to allow the public to pay for goods and services.
However, they shall not be allowed to make payments from their wallets and balances held in such accounts shall be liquidated to the merchant’s bank account.
“In this regard, mobile money operators shall have systems in place to ensure automatic liquidations from the merchant wallets to the merchant bank accounts,” said Mangudya.
RBZ has, since June this year, been tightening screws on illegal foreign currency trade and has targeted EcoCash after noticing illegal foreign currency dealers were riding on the platform to fuel parallel market exchange rate hikes.
Ecocash tried to reverse the new measures through a court challenge but lost the case.
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 funds.
Mangudya blamed mobile payment operators for turning a blind eye and actively encouraging the abuse of bulk payment wallets for illegal foreign currency transactions.
Going forward, bulk payment wallets will be approved by regulatory authorities for limited use, primarily for low value transactions and humanitarian funds disbursements to vulnerable members of society.
Mangudya also ordered the processing of bulk payments such as payment of salaries and wages to be done through normal banking channels.
RBZ said it will work closely with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to consider the findings and recommendations of the forensic report on money laundering, in detail.
“For identified serious breaches, appropriate regulatory and disciplinary measures will be instituted against delinquent mobile money operators and or any culpable individuals, in accordance with the law.”