Speaking to an audience at the Insurance Institute of Zimbabwe annual conference earlier this month, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Director Normal Mataruka said that cryptocurrencies and related investments are “not actually legal” in the country. As reported by NewsDay, Mataruka took a firm stance against cryptocurrency in the country, saying “In Southern Africa, what we have done as regulators, we have said that we will not allow this in our markets.”
Mataruka’s view isn’t blindly hostile to cryptocurrencies, however. “Research is currently on, being undertaken to ascertain the challenges and risks associated with these particular products,” he said. “Until we have actually established and come up with a legal and regulatory framework for them, it will not be allowed.”
The “not legal” status of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in Zimbabwe has done little to curb demand in country. In October, Zimbabwe-based cryptocurrency exchange Golix announced announced that it soon expected to process more than $1 million per month.
It also remains to be seen if the recent ouster of Zimbabwe’s former President Robert Mugabe — seen by many as a dictator during his 37-year-long rule — will have significant impact on the country’s financial situation. Mugabe was replaced by successor Emmerson Mnangagwa in a military coup earlier this month, making serious, ongoing economic problems within the country highly likely as the new government structure and financial status quo emerges.
Many global currency exchanges have suspended trading on the Zimbabwean dollar, crashing the currency to a fraction of its former value. At the same time, Golix reports that bitcoin is trading domestically at twice the current global price. Given the recent history of cryptocurrency trading in places like Venezuela, where bitcoin has effectively become a new reserve currency, it’s not unlikely that bitcoin’s use will rise dramatically in Zimbabwe during the coming months.