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Business proposes freeze on outstanding bills

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THE Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) has called on TelOne to freeze all outstanding bills backdating to 2009, adding the 3% interest rate charged on them was choking businesses.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

Speaking at the ZNCC-TelOne business dialogue in Bulawayo on Friday, ZNCC Bulawayo branch chairman, Golden Muoni said TelOne was charging interest on outstanding bills, which had a negative impact on corporates.

“This move by TelOne is impacting negatively on the efforts to restore operations and productivity on industry and commerce,” he said.

“The method of erasing debts is unattainable by the stakeholders and moreover, it becomes very difficult for companies to erase the debts, as these interests are charged on month on month basis at a rate of 3%.”

ZNCC said interest rates end up choking business, proposing a freeze on all outstanding dues and payments plans to be put in place for all bills pre-December 2017.

“An option of writing off an interest of 50% of the bills of anyone who settles 50% in a single payment or within 45 days and has maintained a landline for a period of not less than five to 10 years. Pre-payment of TelOne telephone bills should be considered as an option to those who choose not to do so,” he said.

Muoni said TelOne should also consider voice over internet protocol for all existing landlines.

He said current liabilities were inflated on balance sheets by the cumulative debts, thereby, disadvantaging companies seeking investment.

In response, TelOne executive director-retail, Joseph Machiva ruled out a blanket freeze on outstanding bills, as well as writing off 50%, insisting on payment plans.

“To say a blanket freeze, then we will shut down within three months because you are all in business, you know what’s happening in this country. If you are running a business as forex intensive, you have to have a liquidity to be able to find the forex,” he said.

“First things first, I cannot write off 50%, I’m sorry to say. Maximum we have written off is 30% actually . . . we can’t do it easily and 50% I’m under strict instruction to say no, 50% we can’t do, but 30% certainly we can.”

On the 3% interest rate, Machiva said they tried various ways like promotions to encourage businesses to settle their bills with no luck.

“Last year, we had an offer where we cut bills by 30% if they came and paid. [This is] an effort to try and get the money into the bank account, where we can pay Econet, NetOne, Telecel . . . but we have not seen responses enough for us to avoid effecting a 3% charge on debts.”

He, however, said the 3% was negotiable and called businesses to engage them further for recourse.

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