Zim forex shortages worsen

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s months-long foreign currency crisis yesterday forced Steward Bank to suspend its MasterCard payment solution, with customers wishing to use the service now required to pre-fund their accounts with cash.

This comes as Zimbabwe’s leading banks are suspending automatic use of  debit cards outside the country due to increasingly scarce foreign currency.

In a statement, Steward Bank, a unit of mobile telephony operator Econet Wireless, said:  “Dear valued customer we regret that due to the prevailing currency challenges, the bank has, with immediate effect withdrawn limits on the following cards: MasterCard Titanium, MasterCard Standard Debit, MasterCard Diaspora.

“Customers who still wish to use their cards abroad will be required to prefund their cards in USD or via Diaspora remittances (for Diaspora accounts) up to the $10 000 regulatory monthly limit. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused by this variation which unfortunately is beyond our control.”

Only this week, e-wallet payment system, EcoCash, owned by  mobile firm Econet Wireless, suspended international transactions on its MasterCard debit card, citing scarcity of forex.

Zimbabwe’s biggest banking group CBZ Holdings also said it was suspending payments for DStv, which has become a major alternative to the menu of  national broadcaster ZBC TV.

The commercial bank advised its customers of the new development through an SMS.

“Dear Valued Client. We advise that DStv Payment Option will no longer be available on CBZ Touch from 11.10.17.

“Our apologies for the inconvenience caused,” read the terse message.

The suspension of DStv payments is also in compliance with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) priority list which guides the execution of all foreign payments for all authorised forex dealers in Zimbabwe.

Elsewhere, EcoCash advised it had suspended international transactions on its MasterCard debit card.

In a message to its clients this week, it said the development had been necessitated by the prevailing foreign currency challenges.

“We regret to advise that with immediate effect, EcoCash will be suspending international transactions on the debit card.

“However, with effect from 1 November 2017, we are happy to advise that you will be able transact with the debit card outside Zimbabwe upon prefunding your card at your nearest Econet shop.

“The card remains in use within Zimbabwe as all local limits remain unchanged.

‘We apologise for any inconveniences caused, which unfortunately are beyond our control,” read the EcoCash message.

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