The Sunday Mail
Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Supa Mandiwanzira has called on mobile service provider, Econet Wireless, to avoid dabbling in politics following the release of its statement yesterday.The minister also said the company is the brains behind the failed plot to increase mobile data tariffs. The company seems to be entrapped in panic mode after it issued a bizarre statement yesterday attacking Minister Mandiwanzira and seemingly going out of its way to create division between the Minister and Potraz Director General Dr Gift Machengete.
In the statement publicised by Econet, the company accused Minister Mandiwanzira of attempting to “capture the industry”.
Minister Mandiwanzira said in a statement yesterday, “I have noted a public statement by Econet Wireless which is highly political and defamatory. The political undertones of the statement, which takes a dig at the Ministry of ICT, Postal & Courier Services and myself, are alarming.
“I urge the company to stay away from politics and stick to its core mandate of business.”
“Econet must accept that they took the lead in determining the recent price hikes as records of meetings show.
“In fact, had it not been for Potraz, Econet wanted to charge far much more than the tariffs they eventually implemented before the ministry intervened. Documentary evidence is available to prove this.
“I would also like to advise that instead of issuing statements attacking Government and my person, the company must take responsibility for its active role in seeking to draw more revenue from its subscribers, details of which are now public knowledge.”
Minister Mandiwanzira suggested that Econet was bent on enforcing the tariff hikes to raise money to pay off its huge debts with European banks.
“It is also on record that Econet’s top management have been to my office, not only once, pleading that I do not approve proposals to decrease tariffs and that they be increased instead because their business was suffering and on the verge of being called out by European Banks from which they have received loans,” he said.
Minister Mandiwanzira said Econet owes its subscribers an explanation on why it rushed to implement the new tariffs above the floor price as soon as they were introduced last week. Econet imposed the new tariffs ahead of Telecel and NetOne, which wrote to authorities seeking a downward review of the tariffs.
Minister Mandiwanzira said instead of picking fights with him, Econet should attend to the load of complaints from its subscribers.
“Rather than attack the minister and the Government, it is advisable for Econet to address concerns by their subscribers who are and have been losing money through seemingly fraudulent billing that makes data credit disappear even when subscribers have not used it. These complaints have come to my office, to Potraz; and are widely shared on social media.”
In the statement, Econet stunningly claimed that Government’s directive to revise the new mobile data tariffs was intended to discredit the company.
“Our reversal of the tariff increases followed a directive by our own Board,” read part of the statement.
“The Regulatory Notice was subsequently withdrawn after we had already implemented our own measures. This duplicity by the Minister is intended to discredit us in the eyes of our customers and in the eyes of Government and to also portray the new Director General of Potraz as incompetent.
“We urge the Government of Zimbabwe to move decisively against the capture of this all-important industry by an individual who has such inconsistency and duplicity. Since his appointment to this Ministry, he has behaved as if he is the Minister of the Government owned entities alone, and has been relentlessly attacking us without just cause and reversing the gains that this sector has made over the years.”
The company also said it had applied for an extension of its promotions which offered low data tariffs for its subscribers but its applications were declined “on the basis that a new Regulatory Framework to govern promotions would be introduced”.
Econet also acknowledged in the statement that its prices are higher than other mobile service providers as it had “paid a punitive license renewal fee of US$137 million”.