Zimbabwe has ordered mobile payments firms to suspend transactions, accusing them of conspiring to sabotage the economy.
In a statement on Friday, the country’s secretary for information, publicity and broadcasting services Nick Mangwana said the government is suspending “all monetary transactions on phone-based mobile money platforms.”
The stock exchange has also been closed, according to a report by finextra.
With banknotes scarce, mobile payments account for more than 80% of all transactions in the southern African country, according to central bank data.
But, the administration, led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, claims that operators, particularly the hugely popular Ecocash, have been conspiring to sabotage the Zimbabwe dollar, which has lost nearly all of its value over the last year, causing rampant inflation.
“Government is in possession of impeccable intelligence which constitutes a prima facie case whereby the phone-based mobile money systems of Zimbabwe are conspiring, with the help of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, either deliberately or inadvertently, in illicit activities that are sabotaging the economy,” says the statement.
Specifically, Ecocash “is acting as the centre pivot of the galloping black market exchange rate and therefore, fuelling the incessant price hikes of goods and services that are bedevilling the economy and causing untold hardship to the people of Zimbabwe.”
The suspension is designed to facilitate “intrusive investigations, leading to the arrest and prosecution of offenders.”
Ecocash initially told customers to continue using its service as normal, arguing that only Zimbabwe’s central bank had the power to suspend its operations.
The bank has since issued its own statement, specifying a ban on mobile money agents facilitating transactions but allowing merchants to receive payments for goods and services.