The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has warned Zimbabweans that Bitcoin is not legal in the country. This was made clear by Norman Mataram, Director and Registrar of banking institutions at RBZ, when he made a public statement warning Zimbabweans against using Bitcoin as it was illegal in the country.
With the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar and the introduction of bond notes for day to day transacting, Bitcoin has emerged among the more popular means of transacting among some sections of Zimbabwe's population.
“In terms of the Bitcoin, as far as we are concerned, it is not actually legal. In Southern Africa, what we have done as regulators, we have said that we will not allow this in our markets. Research is currently being undertaken to ascertain the challenges and risks associated with these particular products and until we have actually established and come up with a legal and regulatory framework for them, it will not be allowed,” said Mataruka.
So popular and in demand is Bitcoin in Zimbabwe that at the time of publishing this article, it was trading at $13,250 on Zimbabwean cryptocurrency exchange, golix.io, a significant difference from the global average of approximately $8,000. Although we do need to highlight that golix.io handles much lower transactions on a daily basis than most Bitcoin exchanges.
The warning by RBZ is similar to the one issued by Namibia’s central bank, Bank of Namibia, emphasizong that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not legal in Namibia. Such a warning is unlikely to have any real life impact at the moment for those currently using Bitcoin in Zimbabwe as the RBZ has no method of monitoring and enforcing this warning. Also, with startups such as BitMari already active in Zimbabwe and offering a Bitcoin wallet service for small-scale farmers to raise funds, it is unlikely that a total ban will be legislated in Zimbabwe anytime soon.