There is a myth or folklore in Zimbabwean tradition that forbids people from marrying in November. The origins of it are unknown but it is held sacred. It is largely believed to have been put in place so as not to interfere with the cropping season. The ZSE’s attempts to consummate the establishment of their own CSD seem to have met an ill fate thus far that has left investors in a quandary as to what is going on. From the 1st of November, the ZSE has experienced technical problems that have led to the adjustment of trading hours. To our understanding, the cause of this is problems with the onboarding of the ZSE Central Securities Depository.
A Central Securities Depository (CSD) is a system that keeps records of holdings of securities digitally and centrally. In the past investors in public listed companies were issued physical share certificates. This encountered many problems such as damaged or lost certificates and the cost of updating share certificates. The solution was a CSD, which would keep a centrally located digital record of shareholdings and certificates.
Zimbabwe’s first CSD, Chengetedzai was established in 2010 and operated as the CSD partner for the ZSE. The brainchild of young Zimbabwean Samuelle Dimairho performed the service for the ZSE for the best part of the last decade. This was instrumental in ushering developments such as digital share trading platforms C-Trade and ZSE Direct. The service is paid for by both the listing company and the individual shareholder when changes must be made to their CSD record. In an attempt to strengthen the ZSE’s income base Justin Bgoni and his team saw an opportunity to provide a competing CSD and moved on it.
The ZSE CSD was mooted over many months and the plan was to operationalise it on the 1st of November 2021. The benefits to the ZSE would be the income from offering the service whilst competition is generally accepted to improve a market for anything, particularly for the users. ZSE offered a sweetened deal with a huge discount on listing fees to companies that elected to move their CSD service provider to the ZSE CSD. While questions were raised on the ethical issues surrounding a player being both market and depository it does not immediately amount to an ethical or operational breakdown. Companies heeded the call and presumably lured by the lower fees these companies agreed to move o the ZSE CSD on the 1st of November;
- ART Holdings Limited
- Axia Corporation Limited
- Simbisa Brands Limited
- Innscor Africa Limited
- SeedCo Limited (ZSE)
- FBC Holdings
- Truworths Limited
In addition to that the following companies also expressed interest but did not make notices to the public;
- General Beltings Holdings
- Zimplow Holdings
- Dairibord Holdings
- Masimba Holdings
Those who had questions over the ethical position of a market also being a CSD were vindicated when a legal challenge was launched.
A group of people, 7 individuals, presumably with the assistance of Chengetedzai as an interested party launched a legal challenge against the migration of the aforementioned companies to the ZSE CSD as reported by The Herald on the 28th of October. The application to the courts which had 13 respondents including The Securities and Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe (SECZim), Chengetedzai Depository Company and 10 of the companies listed above (excluding Axia, FBC Holdings and CAFCA) argued that the enforced change of CSD was unjust as it made them terminate their relationship with one CSD (Chengetedzai) while coercing them to associate with another (ZSE CSD). The proceeding of ZSE with the plan suggests that the application was unsuccessful. However, the ZSE was compelled by the Competition and Tariff Commission of Zimbabwe (CTC) to strike their discount for listing fees as it unduly influenced decisions.
With everything in place, the ZSE went on to announce the onboarding of the companies mentioned. And on Monday the 1st of November the investing public were greeted by confusion in a tweet from the ZSE Twitter account informing the public that they were experiencing technical challenges and the market would open late.
The ZSE wishes to inform stakeholders that there will be a delay in opening of the market. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and we will communicate the new market schedule.
— Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (@ZSE_ZW) November 1, 2021
The market later opened for a contracted 1-hour session
The ZSE wishes to inform stakeholders that the market schedule for today (01/11/2021) is as follows;
Preopen 1230 hours
Open 1245 hours
Continuous 1245- 1345 hours
Close 1345 hours
Post Close 1445 hours
— Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (@ZSE_ZW) November 1, 2021
People across the board reported that companies were missing from their portfolios. The names of the companies all appeared on the above list and that is when it became apparent that the CSD switch was likely the cause of the problem.
Assuming the worst was over the following day investors were greeted by another late start to trading hours
The ZSE wishes to inform stakeholders that the market schedule for today (02/11/2021) is as follows
Preopen 1100 hours
Open 1115- 1345 hours
Close 1345 hours
Postclose 1430 hours
— Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (@ZSE_ZW) November 2, 2021
Wednesday marked an opportunity to use the phrase “third time lucky” for investors and the ZSE but it was not to be as trading was once again not started by 0930 with a tweet explaining later that hours would once again be delayed and slightly contracted.
The market schedule for today (03 November 2021) is as follows;
Preopen 1145 hours
Open 1200- 1400 hours
Close 1400 Hours
Post Close 1500 Hours
— Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (@ZSE_ZW) November 3, 2021
Through the process investors holding the aforementioned companies through digital platforms have reported the disappearance of their shares from their portfolios with some reappearing. Perhaps this is a sign that the problem is being worked on. It is difficult to explain this to agitated investors who have money ready to transact from their monthly earnings.
While glitches experienced so far have dented some confidence in the ZSE their handling of communication around the matter has been a much bigger concern. In the words of Mike Tyson “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face”. ZSE certainly had a plan and the system difficulties landed quite a heavy punch. The investing public would hope for better communication and handling of the crisis. In the opinion of some, one I agree with, it would be better to close the ZSE for a full day or two as long as it guarantees the problem is solved. The hard part is guaranteeing the solution.
Justin Bgoni has thus far proved a competent if not excellent captain at the helm of the ZSE. The usually open communicator has not said much on the issue, understandably his focus is likely on solving the problem. We look forward to the challenges being overcome