By Ishemunyoro Chingwere
The country’s largest payment platform, EcoCash, has suspended over 4 000 of its agents on allegations of participating in the now rampant trend of charging excessive premiums for customers intending to cash out their mobile money.
EcoCash, one of Econet’s biggest business units, moves billions of transactions annually through its over 50 000 agents dotted throughout the country.
The announcement came barely a day after our sister paper, The Herald, published a story in which ordinary citizens and economic experts expressed disdain over the cost of cashing out on plastic money that has effectively eroded people’s earnings.
A survey carried out by this paper shows that EcoCash agents are charging a premium of up to 55 percent to customers in need of cash that is mainly in coins.
But in a statement released yesterday, the mobile payment solution service provider said it doesn’t condone such practice that has seen the birth of cash barons who are profiteering from their access to cash.
“EcoCash advices all its agents that it does not condone any illicit activities by agents,” said EcoCash in a statement.
“We have consistently maintained this position in our various communication directly to all agents through the various forums we hold across the country.
“Any agent charging above the authorised commission levels will be charged accordingly.
“We have so far suspended over 4 000 agents and will not hesitate to act accordingly on any reported cases of charging above authorised commission levels outside the EcoCash platform,” reads the statement.
The move by EcoCash to rid itself of unscrupulous agents also comes in light of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) having started investigating EcoCash agents partaking in the illicit practice.
Earlier, the National Business Council of Zimbabwe (NBCZ) president Mr Langton Mabhanga, had told The Herald that there was need for monetary authorities to impose punitive measures on errant EcoCash agents.
Mr Mabhanga had also said it was not his view that the solution to the problem was in increasing cash in circulation.
“These premiums on cash are fuelling inflation and causing untold suffering to ordinary persons.
“There is need to protect ordinary workers who have watched helplessly as their salaries are being eroded,” said Mr Mabhanga.
“In Rwanda, we have a replica of EcoCash and you will notice that majority of transactions are through plastic money.
“What is lacking is supervision instruments that in my view have failed.
“There is need for an audit of these EcoCash agencies,” he said.
The illicit practice by the country’s largest payment platform has become the biggest threat to Government’s push for people to migrate from using hard cash to electronic payment systems as the latter has been rendered too expensive. The Chronicle