Women rights activist says Eswatini MTN’s Mobile Money, a rip-off


ESwatini MTN


BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

MBABANE : Doo Aphane, a vibrant women rights activist has labelled Eswatini MTN’s Mobile Money as a complete rip-off for poor citizens and advised women to refrain from using the service particularly for their Savings and Co-operatives.

Speaking during the Women’s Convention held at the Happy Valley Hotel on the Eve of the Women’s Day last week, Aphane described MTN’s Mobile Money as another way of pushing the financial struggling women deeper into poverty. Eswatini, a tiny Kingdom ruled by Sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute Monarch King Mswati has about 70% of citizen living below the poverty line and a majority of those affected are women and children.

Aphane, a lawyer by profession said Mobile Money was being marketed positively yet it was another strategy to drag the struggling poor citizens deeper into poverty. She was making comments and posing questions to Thandeka Simelane from the Central Bank of Eswatini who was among the panellists. The Convention,organized by Women and Law for Southern Africa (WLSA) Eswatini was meant to discuss and develop strategies on how women could be empowered economically to enable them to compete fairly in decision-making structures in the country. Thandeka Simelane, an Economist from the Central Bank, when making her remarks had advised women to make use of financial institutions including MTN’s Mobile Money and Eswatini Mobile eMali to transact their money for security reasons. “As the Central Bank, one of our main objectives is to promote financial inclusion and we advise women to make use of banks and Mobile Money to make sure their money is safe and circulates within the country’s banking system” said the Central Bank Economist.

But the sentiments of the Economist triggered a hot debate among the close to 500 participants who accused the Central Bank of pushing them to banks and MTN’s Mobile Money so that their money could be detected and traced by the Eswatini Revenue Authority (SRA). Most participants expressed concerns that they were being heavily taxed yet the money was benefiting few individuals who are draining the economy. Doo Aphane warned women to conduct their own investigations and calculate to ascertain the percentage benefited by Eswatini MTN per transaction compared to banks. Eswatini MTN, a mobile company that established business in the country in 1998 is believed to be linked to King Mswati who is referred to as an ‘esteemed shareholder’ in the company’s shareholding structure. “May I advice women to avoid using this Mobile Money because it’s a complete rip-off and we don’t understand why the company was allowed to compete with banks. Just sit down and make your own calculations to ascertain the percentage they benefit per transaction compared to that charged by banks, this is a complete rip-off!” she said.

Efforts to reach Mandla Luphondvo,the Eswatini MTN Corporate Affairs Manager proved unsuccessful, as he was not reachable on his mobile number. Simangele Mtsetfwa from the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) wondered why the Central Bank was pushing women to bank their ‘stokvels’ savings when they were fresh from being ‘robbed’ by SWEET, a savings scheme with links to King Mswati’s mother, Queen Ntombi Tfwala. “We don’t understand why Central Bank is encouraging us to bank our money, where is SWEET today? Can you explain where SWEET is? It’s not like we don’t know where the money is going, we know. Just give us the platform to speak and we will tell government what is draining this economy” she said. Sibongile Mazibuko, the former President of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) raised an alarm saying women’s savings schemes were now a target hence the Central Bank keeps on reminding them to transact via the banking system.

“I would make an example with what is happening at the Pension Fund where money is literally stolen and women will be the most affected once that fund runs dry. Yinyandzaleyo, nayi imali yetfu iphela(our money is disappearing, we need help)” she said. The Convention ended with the introduction of a newly established Liphimbo Labomake, a collaboration of women’s rights organization that seeks to speak and collectively address issues affecting women both socially, economically or otherwise. The forum’s Committee members include SWAGAA Director Nonhlanhla Dlamini (Chairperson), Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) -Chairperson of the women wing Bongiwe Mango (Vice Chairperson) and Former Miss Swaziland Nozipho Shabangu who will be in charge of Communications. Other members include Mary Dasilva,the Legal Advisor, Nokuthula Mamba, the Secretary and Phumelele Zulu, the Organizer.