A phone of worms



I had just switched on my computer at the start of my graveyard shift when the phone rang.

“She has $10 000 in her mobile wallet account, can you believe it!” shouted my nephew on the other side of the line.
“Calm down and start at the beginning. I can’t make head or tail of what you are saying,” I said slightly annoyed at being disturbed when I was just starting work and at the same time curious to hear the whole story.

This was Friday night and social media was awash with news that mobile phone money transactions had been banned. The news triggered pandemonium, highlighting the need for the government not to rush into making announcements before consultations with all stakeholders to avoid sending out conflicting messages.

It also highlighted the need for effective and strategic communication. When our leaders communicate with us, they must put themselves in our shoes. This will help them analyse their messages for clarity, before making announcements. Odd interpretations result from badly phrased and incomplete messages. A poorly composed message will certainly be affected by the principle of line loss, which, put simply, is a loss to the message as it was originally sent.

The message should also be worded in such a way that deliberate manipulation of information by receivers will not be that easy. Press releases are an effective means for the government to get its messages out. The government must realise that a good press release should be clear, focused and convey the correct information it wants the public to know about.

That Friday night the government had issued a statement announcing the suspension of all monetary transactions on phone-based mobile money platforms in a move apparently meant to deal with the foreign currency black market and economic saboteurs.

The government had taken a series of measures to deal with malpractices, criminality and economic sabotage committed by people who pretended to be supporting it.

EcoCash then issued a notice to its customers, stating that the suspension order did not emanate from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, who is the regulator of its business.

The announcement had opened a can of worms judging by the comments that followed. But in the case of my nephew, the government had switched on a phone of worms.

“Look uncle, early in the morning my wife told me that we had run out of food. Her eyes red from crying she said she didn’t know what to do with the children, as there was no money to buy even the basics. This is why I borrowed that $500 from you to pacify her.

“Guess what? She was pretending all the time and bloody lying as well. One of her friends has just told her that mobile money transactions have been banned and now she is unsuccessfully trying to transfer money from her mobile wallet into her bank account.

“She’s saying she has $10 000 in the wallet and is afraid of losing it all. She’s panicking and now shedding real tears,” said my nephew on the phone.

If only the wife had known and waited till Saturday night… but marriage counsellors say that couples must be open to each other always and agree on how much they spend and save. Planning alone means you are alone and the other person doesn’t matter. Relationships are built on trust or broken by lack of trust. Money matters are sensitive and should be handled with caution.

However, the announcement took a new twist on Saturday night when the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor clarified that ordinary transactions would not be affected. He assured members of the public that their bona-fide transactions would be processed normally. Consumers could still use mobile money platforms to pay for goods and services.

The central bank said that it was money agents who had been suspended from mobile banking transactions.

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