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Namibian Central Bank Bans Bitcoin For Commercial Use

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Namibia Central Bank Bans Bitcoin

Following the warning by the Central Bank of Namibia to its citizens to invest in bitcoin at their own risk and a promise to release an opinion paper on the adoption of bitcoin, Namibia has now officially banned the use of bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency in the country.

The Bank of Namibia stated that the virtual currency exchanges are not acceptable in Namibia and traders should not accept them as payments for goods or services offered based on a decades-old law.

The new nine-page position paper released this month by the Bank of Namibia, “aims to educate the Namibian public and state the Bank of Namibia’s understanding and position concerning distributed ledger technologies and digital currencies, with a specific focus on virtual currencies.”

The paper stated that bitcoins and other virtual currencies pose a ‘minimal’ threat to the Bank’s monetary policy since they currently have a limited presence in the financial system in Namibia.

To further emphasize its stand, the central bank made clear references to the use of digital currencies that lack a centralised system of backing by the government or any other institution and the potential risk that they pose to users. Besides money laundering, the Bank of Namibia also cites credit, liquidity, legal, and operational risk as threats to its citizens, similar to those stated by the European Central Bank.

Namibia’s Legal Framework

The paper is heavily reliant on previous research by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global organization founded by the G7 to curb money laundering and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Besides the two, the Bank also refers to its own domestic law citing relevant Constitutional Acts.

For instance, the country’s Exchange Control Act of 1966, “does not make provision for the establishment of virtual currency exchanges or bureaus in Namibia,” said the Central Bank of Namibia.

The paper further stated:

“A virtual currency exchange or bureau can be referred to as an entity that converts or exchanges legal tender currency / fiat currency into virtual currency or vice versa. In addition to the bank not recognising virtual currencies as legal tender in Namibia, it also does not recognise it to be a foreign currency that can be exchanged for local currency. This is because virtual currencies are neither issued nor guaranteed by a central bank nor backed by any commodity.”

Acknowledgement of Blockchain Technology

While the report maintains its stand on the use of bitcoin and other virtual currencies making use of the blockchain technology, the paper also notes the potential that such ledgers have in offering low-cost payment methods that are efficient.

Still, the central bank cannot accept the use of any virtual currency and states that “due to the lack of a legal premise, the bank is unable to endorse such activities in Namibia at the moment.”

As it stands, Namibians are not allowed to buy a cup of coffee using bitcoin, as trivial as it seems.

“Virtual currencies cannot be used to pay for goods and services in Namibia,” the central bank affirmed. “For example, a local shop is not allowed to price or accept virtual currencies in exchange for goods and services. Users of virtual currencies should therefore exercise caution when dealing in this type of currencies or when comparing it to e-money.”

Stating that there may be a need to conduct further studies on the use of distributed ledger technologies and how they can be utilised to improve the financial sector’s proficiency, the bank said, “the current position of the Bank may be amended and/or supplemented, should a need arise.”

This announcement by the Namibian Central Bank is a blow to cryptocurrency innovation in the Southern African nation. However, given the decentralised and pseudo-anonymous nature of bitcoin, it is unlikely that Namibians will stop buying bitcoin as an investment or use it privately to send and receive cross-border remittances.

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South Africa’s Central Bank Categorises Cryptocurrency as “Cyber Tokens”

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South Africa Cyber Tokens

The South African Reserve Bank has made a decision to categorise virtual currencies such as bitcoin as “cyber-tokens” stating that they do not meet the necessary prerequisite to be referred to as money.

While addressing reporters in Pretoria, the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa, Francois Groepe, said:

“We don’t use the term ‘cryptocurrency’ because it doesn’t meet the requirements of money in the economic sense of the stable means of exchange, a unit of measure and a stable unit of value. We prefer to use the word ‘cyber-token’.”

In addition, the Reserve Bank has now formed a financial technology (fintech) taskforce that will be tasked with reviewing the central bank’s stance on private virtual currencies and help draft a suitable regulatory regime and policy framework.

The decision by South Africa’s central bank comes just two months after the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS), announced their new laws on digital currencies putting them ahead of most African countries that are still struggling to implement laws that govern cryptocurrency use and trading.

Groepe went on to say: “We want to ensure or establish whether there is still compliance with the relevant financial surveillance or exchange-control regulations.”

Not Everyone Loves Cryptocurrencies

Many African governments have been hindering the adoption of cryptocurrencies. Just this week, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe banned all cryptocurrency operations in the country forcing Golix – one of the largest cryptocurrency exchange platforms in the country – to take them to court and challenge their directive. Although the ban was lifted by the Harare High Court, it is not yet clear what the next cause of action of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will be.

Zimbabwe is not the only country. The Central Bank of Kenya has also maintained that investing or trading in cryptocurrencies is risky and has continued to warn both local banks and the general public against them. The central bank of Lesotho also told investors earlier in the year that they would not offer any help to anyone in case they lost their money on digital currencies.

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Zimbabwe High Court Suspends Ban on Cryptocurrencies Set by Central Bank

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Zimbabwe Court Suspends Ban on Cryptocurrencies

Zimbabwean digital currency exchange Golix will be able to resume operations after the Harare High Court suspended a ban by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) that prohibited cryptocurrency operations in the country.

Zimbabwe’s central bank had barred all financial institutions from providing any services to cryptocurrency exchanges terming their move as a step that is meant to “safeguard the integrity, safety, and soundness of the country’s financial system, and to protect the public in general”.

The ruling was made by the High Court after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe failed to appear in court following a case that was filed by Golix challenging the country-wide ban of cryptocurrency trading.

In an interview with CCN, Golix’s Communications Manager, Nhlalwenhle Ngwenya, said: “The ban was lifted.” None of the officials at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, including the Governor, John Mangudya showed up for the proceedings at the Harare High Court causing the court to suspend the ban.

“We are hoping that we can immediately go back to doing business and processing the order book,” stated an official from Golix. As the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the country, Golix was forced to stop its operations and find ways to deal with the directive from RBZ in a notice that was sent to its members.

Relief to Cryptocurrency Exchange Platforms

The ban lift is a relief to both crypto traders as well as investors who will now be able to trade on the Golix or Styx24 exchange platforms. Besides their crypto trading platform, Golix also owns a bitcoin ATM that is located in Harare.

The RBZ had classified operations by cryptocurrency exchanges as illegal in the country. One of the arguments presented to the high court by Golix was that the ban was unconstitutional citing Section 68 while questioning the authority the central bank had in making laws, a function which is meant for the legislative arm of the government, which the RBZ is not part of.

In a letter issued on May 15 to Golix, the central bank ordered them to cease all their cryptocurrency trading and gave banks a maximum of 60 days to stop any relationships they may have with virtual currency exchange platforms in a circular that had been issued on May 11.

The high court ruling also gave the central bank of Zimbabwe a maximum period of 10 days, within which they can oppose the provisional order. In addition, the RBZ was also ordered to pay the cost of the suit.

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Kidnappers in South Africa Demand Bitcoin Ransom for Teenager, Boy Found Unharmed

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Kidnappers Demand Bitcoin Ransom

In South Africa, a gang has kidnapped a 13-year old teenager and demanded a ransom to be paid in bitcoin for his release. The abductors have demanded a ransom of 15 BTC, which is an equivalent of $120,000 at today’s prices.

“This is a kidnapping! We have your child. Your child will not be harmed if the following demands are met: We demand a ransom of 15 bitcoins to be paid to the below Bitcoin wallet to secure your child’s safe release,” reads the note left by the kidnappers.

According to The South African, 13-year-old Katlego Mariate was kidnapped while playing with two of his friends at his home in Frangipani Street, Tasbetpark Extension 3, Witbank. Witnesses testified the victim was grabbed into a gold Toyota Corolla occupied by three unknown men before driving off.

The Police spokesman, Brigadier Leonard Hlathi, said the situation is being investigated:

“We are investigating a case of kidnapping that happened on Sunday in Witbank. There was a demand that was made that the parents should deposit cash in bitcoins.”

Another police officer said the parents of the victim, who are in deep shock over the incident, do not even know what bitcoin is. “They don’t even know what this bitcoin is. They’re devastated and you can see they’re worried and asking themselves: ‘Where’s our son?”

Boy Found Unharmed

According to Reuters Africa, police spokesman Hlathi informed the public that the boy was found unharmed on May 24.

This appears to be the first case in the country involving a bitcoin ransom in a kidnapping. However, it is not the first time this has happened in other parts of the world. Last year, a bitcoin analyst was kidnapped in Ukraine and, in early 2018, a lawyer was abducted with respective kidnappers demanding bitcoin as ransom in Mexico.

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