We too saw last week’s story on spiritual recharge cards by a Zim church leader, Emmanuel Makandiwa. We too found the story somewhat confusing and were eager to find out more so we could write a short ‘explanation’ of how it works, technically. Yes, just the technical side of things; it’s not our place to try to understand and explain the spiritual side.
For those of you that didn’t read the initial story, here are a few extracts from the Mail Online article:
Acclaimed prophet, Emmanuel Makandiwa, has launched “spiritual airtime cards”, a service which has opened up a personal link between him and church members.
…the spiritual link cards are going for US$3 for communication within the country’s borders only. But to communicate with Prophet Makandiwa when he is out of the country, one has to fork out double, US$6 for a different card.
… However the leading network in the country, Econet said they were not involved in the service.
Fortunately for us, the details of the story came walking right through our door, literally. No, it’s not the prophet that came to Techzim; it’s a group of entrepreneurs tightly connected to what they say is the full story. They brought the “spiritual airtime recharge cards” with them. Here are some pictures of the recharge card:
Now, unfortunately for us, these bearers of the full story won’t have us write anything about it until ‘it’s time’, so for now, we won’t. We’ll write about what’s already in the public domain, until we get the green light.
Yesterday’s Sunday Mail had a story. The headline read “POTRAZ probes Makandiwa over recharge cards”. According to the story, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe is investigating the church leader for operating a Mobile Virtual Network (MVNO) without a license.
The confusion around the nature of the service might have stemmed from the initial article that suggested, the cards are “airtime recharge cards”. It might also have stemmed from the church leader himself not explaining clearly what his new service is about.
Our friends (the ones tightly connected to the story) also told us it’s nothing like an MVNO. It’s just an SMS value added service they said.
How it works is that you buy a recharge card from the church, you scratch for a code and depending on your mobile network (Telecel, Econet or NetOne), you send the code to some church numbers. This registers you to receive SMS messages supposedly coming from the church leader. US $3 buys you 6 messages, which translates to US 50 cents per message. 50 cents per transaction is like a standard VAS transaction charge in Zimbabwe. If the church leader happens to be out of the country, you’re charged double the rate for each message.
Even the card says it clearly:
“This recharge card subscribes you to receive devotional messages for six days from the Man of God, Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa”
It’s just a church leader selling an SMS based value added service to his congregants. Whether that is right or wrong spiritually is of course another matter.
If you’re wondering why these VAS providers won’t just do it the proper way; through short codes supplied by the local mobile network operators, well, the issue we keep hearing from VAS developers is that the system is skewed in favour of the mobile operators who are ripping VAS providers off. For a VAS transaction where the subscriber is charged US 50 cents for example, the VAS provider is required to pay the mobile operator US 9 cents and 60% of the remaining 41 cents. We’ve posted about the subject before.