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BlakAkhive, Finance & Governance, Matimu

Exploring Tsonga Underground Money Transfer System – SA to Moz

In the modern age, one of the most revolutionized systems is the finance system. Vatsonga, as an ethnic group; one of our ethnic symbols is trade and commerce, and the notion of money has never been foreign. There is an underground money transfer system, mostly used to transfer money from South Africa to Mozambique, and vice-versa. It has no specific name; the system is based on “Faith” and “Trust”, no contracts signed. Even though it is considered “informal” and “illegal”, for no tax is paid for money transferred; it seems to be popular among users.

This is how the system runs:

1 – To send money to someone in Mozambique, one goes to any taxi rank in South Africa which has taxis to Mozambique. The money is handed to a taxi driver going to the specific location in Mozambique.

2- Since the sender and the driver don’t know each other, the driver demands the cellphone number of the recipient, and his plate number and name must be recorded by the sender. The sender then informs the recipient. The recipient in Mozambique can personally verify whether the vehicle and the driver are known in the taxi rank in Mozambique, or can verify by a call to the taxi rank.

3 – Once the verification is done, the sender hands over the cash at 20% rate handling fee, sometimes the rate goes to 30% of the total amount transferred.

4 – Once the driver is in Mozambique, he calls the recipient. If the recipient lives in a place before the taxi rank, the money is delivered at recipient’s place or at a place of convenience. If the recipient lives in the same location as the taxi rank or after the taxi rank, the collection is done at the taxi rank. There are cases where the driver who was given the money may no longer go to that area. So, the money is passed to another driver, normally this driver charges between 10 – 15% of the handling fee. He does not charge the person who sent the money, he charges the driver who took the money in South Africa. Then the first driver informs the recipient that another driver will do the delivery, and the second driver then calls the recipient when at the destination.

5 – If the recipient is not available, the money is dropped at the taxi rank’s offices. Collection is done when the required security questions are answered properly.

This system is a bit similar to the Hawala, mainly used by Muslims all over the world. But, unlike the Hawala system, where money hardly moves, in this system, money does move a lot and in hard cash.

In the Mozambican context, banks are still associated with European exploitative systems; except for those who happen to be Portuguese speakers. Majority of non-Portuguese speaking Tsonga people have a certain visible degree of distrust on the banks, this could be due to language distrust as well. Banks use Portuguese as language of transactions, the system we are talking about uses Xitsonga as language of transactions.

Once the money is in Mozambique, whether money came as Rand or dollar, it will be exchanged at the “informal” Forex dealers. This system is popular, though there are many services like Reenies, Western Union, Mukuru, m-Pesa etc. Once a system is entrenched in a culture, it is not easy to dismantle it. The Mozambican government has made calls for people to use the “formal” methods, but very few people trust the “formal” people when it comes to money transfer.

This is one aspect that proves the ability of Vatsonga to upgrade trade patterns.

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