Fallout over mobile data promotion ban spills into Parly

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Econet Wireless chief executive officer Douglas Mboweni

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s government last year suspended all mobile data promotions after the country was rocked by bouts of demonstrations orchestrated through social media, Parliament heard yesterday.

By VENERANDA LANGA

Econet Wireless chief executive officer Douglas Mboweni
Econet Wireless chief executive officer Douglas Mboweni

Econet chief executive officer, Douglas Mboweni, yesterday told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information and Communication Technology, chaired by Kuwadzana East MP, Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T), that telecommunications regulator, the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), suspended promotions that were seen as enabling social media activism.

“In July 2016, the country experienced social disturbances and increases in social media activism, and it was during this time that Potraz legal director, Cecilia Nyamutsva, and Potraz chairperson, Ozias Bvute, called for a meeting about what was happening on social media,” he said.

Zimbabwe was rocked by demonstrations last July led by now-exiled cleric, Evan Mawarire, demanding an end to corruption, among other issues.

Econet, Mboweni said, had applied for an extension of their promotions, but had been rebuffed by Potraz.

The Econet boss said all operators then met to come up with a floor price to be implemented by January, which the country’s biggest mobile operator complied with, only to realise they had been isolated.

“We had raised the issue of lack of a level playing field and this is not the first time, as it has happened with the $137,5 million licence fees, which Econet has paid in full, while other operators have not paid,” Mboweni said.

Telecel chief executive officer, Angeline Vere, said after the Potraz directive to reduce data tariffs, they were the first to comply and implemented it on December 20, only to discover that other operators had not done so.

NetOne acting chief executive officer, Brian Mutandiro, said his company was against any price increase.

“We requested more time to communicate with our subscribers because we knew it was going to be detrimental to us. We were going to suffer because the OneFusion package had given us growth,” he told the committee.

Mutandiro said Econet was the one that advocated for tariff increases, but other networks felt their business models would be strained.

He said Potraz was concerned with Whatsapp’s impact on Zimbabweans “as it was now a common threat”.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Every player must pay requisite requirements fees such as the $137.5 million license charges. Government companies should comply and be run as proper business units, not to be cuddled with lullaby charge exemptions which only spur them to being run incompetently and inefficiently. They should make profit so that government is not all over the place looking for any smallest amount of money.

  2. In this sector, competition, not collusion, should be the order of the day. This is how the public interest, the consumer, is guaranteed protection and value for money. The largest mobile operator should be aware of this and promote it.

      • Maybe Telecel and Netone should also increase tariffs and pay their $137 million licence fees. Can you imagine what that kind of money would do to the government coffers.Bottom line, Econet are justified because the playing field is not level.

  3. if u air yo views in the street unorohwa better pamaSocial network ipapa. Let us air our views choko harivhikwi. we need to accept constructive criticism

  4. All I am concerned is about the affordability of telecoms in Zim because saving on my dollar makes sense. Zve hondo dzeEconet izvo I care less, they have to fight their own wars bearing in mind kuti vakadhurisa their products some of us skip the boat. All I want is more for my dollar period.

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