Zimbabwe on Friday abruptly suspended all mobile money transactions, the most widely used platform to make and receive payments in the crisis-ridden country, claiming the move would tackle crime and economic sabotage.
The government also suspended all trade on the country’s stock exchange, which it accused of being complicit in illicit financial activities.
An information ministry statement said government was suspending with immediate effect “all monetary transactions on phone based mobile money platforms in order to facilitate intrusive investigations”.
“Government is in possession of impeccable intelligence … whereby mobile-based phone systems …are conspiring with the help of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange — either deliberately or inadvertently — in illicit activities that are sabotaging the economy,” it said.
In 2016, mobile money payments reportedly accounted for more than 80 percent of all electronic payment transactions.
The shock announcement coincided with month-end when people receive and withdraw their salaries via mobile phone banking.
In a country critically short of bank notes, the move will likely shut most general transactions from payment for groceries and services such as electricity.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took power in 2017 following a military coup pledging to revive the moribund economy, now blames the economic malaise on unnamed “political detractors”.
“We are fully cognisant that this battle is being fuelled by our political detractors, elite opportunists and malcontents who are bent on pushing a nefarious agenda,” he said this week.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of its worst economic crisis in more than a decade.
The country is short of cash and basics including fuel and the staple cornmeal.
According to new data annual inflation was inching closer to 800 percent in April.