#OutAndAbout: Zimbabwe's Mobile Money Transactions at Service Stations Deadly?

The  economic scourge has led to a depressing cash crisis in Zimbabwe and this has promoted the popularity of mobile money and the idea of a cashless society.The crisis has led to many organizations adopting the POS service and others the Ecocash service.

Local service stations have joined the bandwagon of doing electronic transactions adopting the mobile money platforms to ease their operations and transactions.

By Marvelous Chibagidi

 

In business people tend to overlook some things which appear trivial. Service stations the world world over prohibit the use of cellphones.

But in Zimbabwe, with the emergence and promotion of mobile money people ignore this warning. But there is a twist to this especially with services like Ecocash and Telecash which require one to use their mobile phone when buying fuel.

While many Zimbabweans are familiar with the “No Cellphone Use” warning one can help but wonder if this cash crisis has bent the service station rules.

In a survey done by TechnoMag last week, we found that mobile money transactions where at times one has to pull out his or her car to pay up while close to the pump.

Zuva Service station
Zuva Service station

 

“Yes sure you can do the transaction via Ecocash,” he said.

We stopped the car engine and as he filled up the car we did the transaction over the phone via Ecocash.

Realising this, all it entailed that these No Cellphones warning signs should be removed.

In the survey, we found that most attendants do not know the purpose of these signs.

At other service stations they have fuel cards which are topped with money to buy fuel.

Others do the Ecocash transaction inside Service station shops.

So many times one has to hoot to tell the next person that their car has been refilled. filled up and they can go or many times the attendant does it as the person whose car was being filled up is on their mobile phone and very much concentrating on it.

Mobile phones can be a great distraction at the service station and this can lead to people at the station being run over or even cars bumping as one would not have their full attention on the wheel. One can simply start their Whatsapp chat after finishing their transaction inconveniencing the next customer.

Speaking to many customers they said they were actually happy that they could now pay for their cars fuel via Eco-cash.

“I do not have to worry about not having money even when Im in desperate need of the fuel,” said one customer.

But dont worry, when using your phone at the service station, you are barely bending the rules.  the rules. The only way that a mobile phone could generate a spark at a petrol station would be due to a defective battery, which is unlikely and could also occur in the case of the car’s own battery.

While the possibility is remote, there is a low risk that an explosion could occur from the gases that are emitted by the hose and not from the fuel.
The fear is that the electromagnetic (EM) radiation from a mobile phone could impart enough energy to ignite petrol vapour directly or that it could induce currents in nearby metal objects and trigger a spark with the same effect.
A study found that in 243 petrol station fires around the world between 1994 and 2005, none were caused by mobile phones. In fact, there isn’t a single confirmed case of this ever happening. Even a lit cigarette isn’t hot enough to ignite petrol vapor. You need a naked flame or a spark, and mobile phones have low-voltage batteries that aren’t capable of producing either.

According to a report from the  Petroleum Equipment Institute, there are no documented incidents at petrol stations related to fires or explosions caused by the use of mobile phones.

Nonetheless, the use of mobile phones is probably more dangerous as a source of distraction than as the possible source of an explosion.

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