EcoCash Set To Shut Down If RBZ Ban Is Not Lifted
In court documents that have been seen by ZiMetro, Cassava Smartech, the parent company of Ecocash – Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile money payment platform, have stated that in order for them to fully comply with the directive from the RBZ, they would effectively need to shut down the whole Ecocash system, as the ability for one to Cash-In and Cash-Out is core to their system.
It seems the mobile money giant, that has stated that it has moved over US$10 billion (plus ZW$7 billion) to date, is digging in deep, to effectively get the Central Bank to reverse their decision.
Zimbabweans have over 10.5 million Ecocash lines combined, 6.4 million of those being active within the last 3 months. Ecocash is threatening to shut down service, if it is to fully comply with the order that was issued by the RBZ on Monday 30 September 2019.
In the founding affidavit of Ecocash CEO, Edmore Chibi, he goes on to state that the parent company of Ecocash, Cassava Smartech, has shareholders that include pensioners, and such an order will adversely affect them. He also makes stabs at banks, and as to how the banking system has collapsed causing Zimbabweans to have lost confidence in the banking system.
Chibi’s full affidavit can be found below:
IN THE HIGH COURT OF ZIMBABWE CASE NO. /19 HELD AT HARARE
In the matter between:
CASSAVA SMARTECH ZIMBABWE LIMITED APPLICANT
RESERVE BANK OF ZIMBABWE RESPONDENT
FOUNDING AFFIDAVIT OF EDMORE CHIBI
I, Edmore Chibi, do hereby make oath and say that:
1. I am the Chief Executive Officer of the Applicant. The facts to which I swear are within my personal knowledge, correct and true.
2. The Applicant is Cassava SmarTech Zimbabwe Limited, a public company that is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. The Applicant’s shareholders include. pension funds, meaning that most employees and retirees in Zimbabwe are beneficially interested in the equity of the Applicant. The Applicant operates a money transfer platform called Ecocash that is recognized by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in accordance with the provisions of the National Payments Systems Act [Chapter 24:23].
3. The Respondent is the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, a statutory body duly constituted
in terms of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act [Chapter 22:15]. The Respondents is
the authority that is empowered to recognize and regulate payment systems in accordance with the provisions of the National Payments Systems Act [Chapter 24:23].
4. Ecocash is a pioneering mobile financial services solution that has given access to the Zimbabwean unbanked population in an unprecedented scale in Zimbabwe. Owing to the serial collapse of banking institutions in Zimbabwe, according to media reports, the size of the banked population had reduced to less than 10% of the population when Ecocash was introduced in September 2011. Presently, Ecocash has more than 10.5 million users, that is over 90% of the adult population of Zimbabwe. The growth in Ecocash has given access to financial services to the population that was hitherto unbanked and had lost confidence in the banking system.
5. The Ecocash platform has 10,562,070 users of which 6,400,000 have been active during the last 90 days. Of the total registered users, 6,337,242 are Rural customers while 4,224,828 are urban customers.
6. From September 2011 when the Cash In facility was introduced, 227,519,851 Cash In transactions worth US$10,195,546,216.00 plus ZW$7,542,785,610.00 have been conducted. On the other hand, 387,308,926 Cash Out transactions worth US$8,657,704,182.00 plus ZW$4,142,862,274.00 have also been conducted. Thus, Ecocash has played a critical role in facilitating transaction activity between Zimbabweans in circumstances of acute liquidity challenges.
7. The most important Ecocash products especially to the unbanked population that do not have ready access to banks are the cash in and cash out facilities. These facilities enable the population that may have cash to deposit their cash with Ecocash agents that number 51,000, more than the number of banking branches of all banks in Zimbabwe combined. In return, the wallet of the cash depositing customer is credited with the value of the cash deposited to enable the depositor to transact with the deposited cash electronically. There is no incident of money creation as the electronic money credited to the wallet will be equivalent to the amount of cash deposited. In the same manner, a customer can approach an Ecocash Agent for cash in exchange for money in their Ecocash Wallet using the Cash Out facility. This exchange of cash for electronic money has become the lifeblood of commercial activity in Zimbabwe and has been the lifeblood of commercial activity in Zimbabwe since September 2011.
8. Lately, there has been a surge in the demand for cash. People have been buying cash at a premium of approximately 35% using their RTGS Bank balances or Ecocash. The market information I have based on informed investigations by my team indicates that all electronic money balances are being heavily discounted in preference for cash. The exchange of electronic money for cash must actually be higher on the RTGS platform because the platform commands a higher market share by value than Ecocash. The results of our own investigations are corroborated by recent freezing of bank accounts that were announced by the Reserve Bank against some companies. I attach hereto marked “A”, an announcement by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in terms of which it instructed banking institutions to freeze RTGS Dollar accounts.
9. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Applicant have also been investigating incidences of abuse of the Ecocash Platform by users. Where users have been found to have abused the platform, their accounts have been frozen. Since June 2019, various accounts of agents and individuals have been frozen on allegations of money laundering or abuse of the Ecocash platform. For legal reasons I will not attach the various directives of the Respondent in this regard. I would need the authority of the Respondent and the affected individuals to publicize the communication. However, I offer to produce the various communication in Court should these facts be challenged by the Respondent.
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