HARARE – Zimbabweans need to abandon their cash mentality and migrate to cash-lite transactions, the same way the country dumped the cheque system, a Cabinet minister said.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) minister Supa Mandiwanzira said Zimbabweans — who have been battling an acute cash shortage for over a year — needed to warm up to the reality that “the money simply isn’t there,” pointing out that there was need to tap into mobile money payments in the absence of adequate Point of Sale (Pos) machines.
“Everybody is jostling for cash, each time I walk to my office — you know my office is at a building where at the ground floor there is a bank — I see a lot of Zimbabweans sitting there patiently waiting for the opportunity to get into the bank to get cash.
“It pains me because those people do not need to be there, it says to myself as a government minister and ruling Zanu PF party member that we ought to do more to make sure that the lives of these people are made better.
“But it also makes it worse for me because it is this sector (ICT) that has the responsibility to make this situation better. If you go to other countries cash is becoming obsolete. People there do not need to touch money; they use their phones, computers to transact,” the Nyanga legislator said at a recent briefing in the capital.
He called on players in the telecommunications sector to ensure that Zimbabweans could transact using mobile money even in the remotest part of the country, hinting that he would open discussions with Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa for Treasury to scrap import duty off mobile phones.
“…The desperation for cash needs an answer and the answer lies in the telecommunications sector offering platforms that allow people to pay pachigayo (grinding mill), patoll gate and their maid, not using cash.
“Those queues are totally unnecessary and if we start a new campaign supported by Potraz, bankrolled by all the players.
“The solution is not with VaMangudya (central bank governor) importing more cash from America, but in moving with global trends… Look at the cheques, because we got rid of them as a country and Zimbabweans understood the need for that transition. They will also understand the transition to run away from cash,” he said.
Mandiwanzira said given that the country has an estimated $300 million as cash in circulation and deposits worth over $6 billion, it was crucial for the transition to a cashless society to happen immediately.
“Haifi yakakwana cash muno (the cash will never be enough), tobacco farmers are going to earn $700 million by selling their tobacco and every one of them wants cash.
“Now, where do we get $700 million in cash, just for tobacco farmers alone… This problem will not be solved by our banks alone, but by the telecommunications sector as well,” he said.
Despite all the arguments for cash-lite transactions, market watchers point out that the reason the transition is slow is because Zimbabweans have little trust in the local financial sector.
According to the 2017 Monetary Policy Statement, mobile money payments in Zimbabwe accounted for 81,2 percent of all electronic payment transactions maintaining the dominance mobile money services have had in transaction volumes.