MASERU – Rumours circulating on social media alleging the government is planning to shut down Vodacom Lesotho have proved damaging to small business operators, players in the industry have said.
Small business owners who save money in Mpesa accounts this week told this paper that after hearing rumours about the Government’s purported intention, they withdrew their monies from their Mpesa accounts to avoid losing their savings.
Mamats’eliso Makhetha who runs a general café in Mafeteng said she was attracted to Vodacom’s mobile money service five years ago because of its easy access, affordability, relevance and convenience for her daily operations so she opened a Mpesa account and it has eased her business transactions. She said all these years she has been saving her money in the account as she found commercial bank rates to be too expensive for her.
“I have been comfortable saving my money in my Mpesa account because I was able to withdraw and deposit money any time I want and was also able to make savings that will later be used to expand my business.
“Now, since the news that Vodacom might leave the country started circulating, I am no longer certain about the safety of my savings hence why I withdrew all my money and kept it at home which does not help me towards saving to expand my business.
“What I did is just to be on the save side than be sorry, especially because with our country anything is possible. “Even though we are assured by Vodacom that our funds are safe, I still believe withdrawing my money and maybe depositing it back when the dust has settled is better,” Makhetha said. Some street vendors who spoke to Public Eye echoed her sentiments further noting that at the moment they feel their money safer as hard cash in their possession.
Limpho Loke who sells fruits and vegetables in Maseru said even though all his hope is on Vodacom’s Mpesa since he is unable to open a bank account because he does not have a pay slip, he is worried about his savings.
He said to be precise, he is confused whether to trust Vodacom or withdraw his money as both decisions could have undesirable consequences. “I am a very bad spender, and if I withdraw all my money, it will not see the end of this week. On the other hand, if I leave it in my account there is a possibility that I might not see it again,” he said.
However, Mamolemo Moeti and Mapoloko Nkikane have different opinions on the matter. Nkikane who imports clothes to sell in the country said she is still saving with Mpesa and is not planning on withdrawing her money due to the circulating rumours.
“Vodacom is a very big company and cannot be expelled overnight from the country. There are procedures that need to be followed therefore until a formal statement is made by both the government and Vodacom on the matter, I will still keep my savings in my Mpesa account,” she said. Moeti, a food vendor, said assurances made by Vodacom are enough and she will not listen to rumours so she said she is continuing to save through Mpesa.
“I opened Mpesa account in 2015 while I was still living in Mafeteng while my husband was working in Maseru and through Mpesa he was able to send money home easily. “Vodacom has never done anything to make me doubt the safety of my savings therefore I will hear from them when it is no longer safe for me to keep my money in the Mpesa account.
“Apart from loving Mpesa’s accessibility, I am also able to save money through it at the end of everyday despite how small the amount can be. I failed a long time ago to open a bank account because of high rates and too much paperwork needed,” she said.
A shop attendant at Makhabane, a kiosk which is a Mpesa agent, said a lot of people on Monday withdrew their monies from Mpesa accounts. She refused to be identified. She, however, thinks that there is nothing bizarre with the transactions as normally during this time of the month people withdraw money a lot therefore she cannot say whether it is because of the circulating statements or not.
Katleho Pefolo, Vodacom Lesotho’s spokesperson declined to comment on the matter noting that they have been ordered not to talk to the media until further notice. The damaging rumour was came about after the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) released a statement stating that Vodacom Lesotho had failed to pay regulatory fees on time.
LCA also said the telecommunications firm also failed to meet a universal fund obligation to appoint independent auditor and to comply with tariff conditions therefore measures are being taken against it to ensure compliance and stability within communications sector.
LCA’s Public Relations Officer Ts’iu Ts’iu said people should not be alarmed by the circulating rumours that Vodacom will be closed and should continue to use its services which include Mpesa. He said users should be assured that all their money in Mpesa accounts is safe.