Zimbabwe's Ecocash System Crashes

Chiredzi — MOBILE telecommunications giant Econet Wireless has botched up a weekend system upgrade, seriously inconveniencing its subscribers.

The company announced a 24-hour EcoCash system maintenance that was supposed to be confined to the off-peak weekend hours but up until Monday (today) subscribers are battling to get satisfactory service.

"Dear Customer, Be advised of the planned EcoCash System upgrade from 9pm on 16Nov to 9pm on 17 Nov. Service will be unavailable. Apologies for the inconvenience," reads the notification that was sent to its millions of subscribers.

Launched in Zimbabwe in 2011, EcoCash is a mobile payment solution which enables subscribers to make financial transactions, buy airtime and pay for goods using their cellphones.

However, due to crippling cash shortages experienced in a country battling hyper inflation, 99 percent of all financial transactions are conducted on the platform which has a lion's share of the mobile business.

"Since they (Econet) notified us about the upgrade set for 24 hours we geared for that disruption, buying goods on Saturday that would be sufficient for the whole of Sunday," said one Chiredzi subscriber, Nomatter Mhangara.

"We hoped come 9pm (21:00Hrs) that day we would enjoy the convenience of transacting on our phones. That was not to be."

On Monday, subscribers could not only pay for goods and services using Ecocash, but could not buy airtime and social media bundles.

To their horror, they discovered the service provider had removed an option where one could buy airtime and data bundles through EcoCash, forcing customers to go and buy juice cards using hard cash on the streets.

One vendor who preferred anonymity said her business had been negatively affected by the systems upgrade.

"During the weekend our business was very low since almost everyone uses EcoCash to buy."

This reporter also observed that business was low in the Chiredzi Central Business District (CBD) as a few people with access to cash and those with swipe cards were only able to purchase their goods in the supermarkets.

At Chirandu bar in downtown Masvingo, beer imbibers had a torrid time as they could not get their favourite opaque beer.

Even though a Delta truck laden with Chibuku parked a few metres from the bar, the operator could not order stocks due to the malfunctioning EcoCash platform.

This turned out to be a real nightmare for drinkers.

The situation was the same across time where business ground to a halt at a time when Civil Servants are getting their November bonuses.

"Everybody buys with EcoCash and when it sneezes, we all catch a cold," said Johannes Dumbu who manages a hardware shop in Masvingo.

He was right. Even banks are affected and are failing to provide mobile banking solutions.

"Dear Customer, we have intermittent connectivity on mobile banking for Econet subscribers. We are working on a solution and apologise for the inconvenience," said BancAbc in a notice to customers

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