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Zimfon’s response on the legality of the company’s VoIP services

Yesterday, we published an article in which we had comments from POTRAZ Deputy Director General, Alfred Marisa, on the legality of the recently launched Zimfon VoIP service. Legality in terms of meeting Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulation requirements. He essentially said Zimfon is not compliance with regulatory requirements. Below is Zimfon’s response on the matter. Sent to us by Brett Chulu.

zimfonPOTRAZ have not formally communicated to us about non-compliance of the Zimfon service. Zimfon, through its emissaries has been engaging Potraz before the launch of the product.  The crux of the matter is that if Guroo is compliant then Zimfon is. Both use similar models with slight nuanced differences. The question would be: Should innovations coming from Zimbabweans to compete in the global space be disparaged when cross-platform applications from other countries are embraced in this country without people casting aspersions on the legality of genuine home-grown products. If the South African government had not accommodated innovations such as EcoCash to operate in South Africa, would we be applauding Econet for helping Zimbabweans in South Africa to start sending money to Zimbabwe via EcoCash in South Africa?

There are three reasons why Zimfon is compliant with international best practice and standards.

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First, the use of caller IDs or phone numbers of people residing in other countries is not unique to Zimfon. WhatsApp’s value proposition would be significantly less appealing if it did not use the caller IDs of its global customers. Simply put, there would be no WhatsApp. WhatsApp simply asks new subscribers to supply their caller ID (phone number). WhatsApp does not seek permission from the mobile network operator (MNO) to use the phone numbers of its customers. The question then is: Is WhatsApp doing something illegal? If what WhatsApp is doing is legal, then what Zimfon is doing should also be legal. WhatsApp delivers text, sound and images via the internet. Zimfon is dedicated to delivering voice over the internet. WhatsApp is based in the US and so is Zimfon. Zimfon is incorporated in the State of Delaware. It is run from Eddystone in Pennsylvania. WhatsApp should be treated no better than Zimfon. Zimfon is company founded and run by Zimbabweans living in the US. Zimfon, like WhatsApp, is a young company that has found a gap in the global market and is applying its entrepreneurial skills to address pain points of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora just like what WhatsApp has done. The same argument applies to Guroo.

Second, innovative companies like Econet have agreements with mobile network operators from other countries that allow them to deliver call-home services to Zimbabwe. It is a matter that is within the public domain that Econet has a smart partnership with South Africa’s mobile network operator, Cell C. This partnership sees Econet using the Cell C network to offer call-home services to Zimbabweans in South Africa to call Zimbabwe. The service is packaged as an Econet brand. What is wrong then for a Zimbabwean company and a US-based company (founded and run by Zimbabweans) to enter into a smart partnership that allows Zimbabweans in the diaspora to call home at affordable rates? We applaud Econet for using their innovativeness in forging smart partnerships with progressive foreign telecoms companies to deliver value to Zimbabweans in South Africa. Likewise, Zimfon should be applauded for bringing relief to Zimbabweans in the wider Diaspora through a smart partnership with a progressive Zimbabwean company. In the same vein, the South African Reserve Bank has allowed Econet to extend EcoCash to South Africa. In the spirit of Pan Africanism, South Africa has shown that it is progressive to accommodate innovations that solve African problems through technology. All progressive Zimbabweans should embrace the spirit shown by the South African authorities to look at the bigger picture and allow innovations by Zimbabweans to flourish in their country.

Third, Zimfon does a better job in complying with best practice in the Know Your Customer (KYC) domain than many voice- over- internet- protocol (VoIP) service providers. With our 2 cents per hour ‘no brainer’ unlimited calling from the Diaspora to Zimbabwe, our strategic partner in Zimbabwe conducts the registration of users in Zimbabwe in line with Potraz guidelines. Those in the diaspora register online with us before they can use any of our services. Adequate information that allows Zimfon to ‘know its customers’ is collected upon registration. Zimfon knows its customers. Zimfon adheres to international best practice in terms of privacy laws. Zimfon is led by highly experienced directors who have worked for leading international telecoms companies. These are sufficiently experienced to guide Zimfon’s management.  At our well-attended launch of Zimfon’s ‘no brainer’ 2 cents per hour call-home service in which several local media houses ( including the top two) came, Zimfon  issued media packs that include details of Zimfon’s senior directors. One of Zimfon’s directors was instrumental in the creation of Diaspora business and social networking fora. Esau Jabulani Mavindidze, a director of Zimfon sits on the board of directors of ZimExpo, an Event Management company based in the USA. He is a founding member and Managing Director for the Zimbabwe Business Network International (ZBNI), a member affiliated network organisation for entrepreneurial individuals and entities. He also sits on the board of the Zimbabwe Network for Health (ZimHealthUSA), a non-profit organisation which supports health services and programs in Zimbabwe. Esau has been involved in many Diaspora based initiatives, including the recently formed Zimbabwe Diaspora Home Interface Program (ZIDHIP). Esau is also a founding member of the Pan African Community of Central New York (PACCNY), the Association of Zimbabweans in the Delaware Valley (AZDV), and ZimSports USA.

Another Director Tonderai Tela, with over 30 years’ experience in the international telecoms industry, Tonderai Tela, worked as a Business Analyst, Market Analyst, and Senior Data Analyst at Intelsat Global Communication Company in Washington DC from 2000 to 2005. During this term, he managed the global corporation’s information resources, data analysis and administered the Intelsat Business Network. He also helped develop and implement the Siebel based Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) tools for Customer, Sales, Contract, and Business information management and retrieval system.

Mr. Tela also serves on the ZIMEXPO Business Consortium as chairman of the board. ZIMEXPO Business Consortium is a collection of businesses and professionals based in the diaspora. ZIMEXPO manages portals such as www.zimexpo.com , as well as the Zimbabwe Business Network International (ZBNI), www.zimbabwebusinessnet.com.

Before moving to the USA, Tela worked with the then Zimbabwe Post and Telecommunications Corporation (ZPTC), where he helped design and develop information systems for the Expedited Mail Service (EMS), Mobile and ZPTC interconnect management and billing software, among others. He was one of the initial members of POSB computerisation team and administrator of several telecommunications database projects.

Zimfon should be applauded for rising to the call by our country’s national leaders for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to make meaningful contribution to economic and social development. Zimfon has responded to that call through its voice-call innovation and its corporate social responsibility initiatives launched on Monday 14 October at the Rainbow Towers in Harare. Zimfon has amply demonstrated that empowerment of Zimbabweans in a foreign country is possible. Zimfon is contributing immensely in projecting a favourable image of Zimbabwe by using skill and knowledge to churn out innovations that is attracting the attention of people throughout the world.


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25 thoughts on “Zimfon’s response on the legality of the company’s VoIP services

  1. In the statement quoted by Techzim on Potraz, you referred to ‘views’ and ‘feelings’. Do feelings and views amount to fact? Should an opinion be stated as an official position?
    What’s Potraz official position on WhatsApp? What’s Potraz’s official position on Guroo?

  2. i think it should be clear that being compliant with international best practices, and being compliant with POTRAZ in Zimbabwe are two different things entirely. I think that rather than squabbling on techzim about the whole issue, while mentioning a whole lot of US based information (which frankly is irrelevant to Zimbabwe), zimfon should actively get involved with POTRAZ to get this sorted out. at the end of day, they are the authority for allowing (or not) any new telecoms services in this country.

  3. The idea is novel but these guys shld comply with local regulations. They are in partnership with Africom yet Africom does not have a license to carry international traffic on anyone`s behalf. It is clear in their VoIP license which they signed and agreed to long back. A license upgrade would be recommended otherwise they will be be personalized and pay.

    1. That’s a mature comment Spencer. This is the kind of forward thinking we need to push our country forward.

  4. Ana Africom vane malawyers here, they dont even understand the license conditions which they signed to. What they r doing with Zimfon is illegal in Zimbabwe. Their VoIP license class does not permit them to carry international traffic.. Trying to seek public sympathy in the media wont help engage the regulator and map a way forward before your services r terminated

    1. mr bimp, how do you define “international traffic” for a voip operator…..voip being voice over internet…..and the internet being an international network of networks….I don’t think kuti you can define kuti internet yemu Zimbabwe and yemu Africa…. when it comes to the internet geographical boundaries don’t really mean much…..

      1. According to the scope of their current license, they shall provide international data and internet into and from their network through a licensed international gateway operator. They are not a licensed international gateway operator unless they upgrade the license

  5. Ehm, Comrade Brett Chulu, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but …

    … you didn’t answer the question.

    That is all

  6. This is what happens when you steal other people’s project Gerry Dumani .
    Chickens coming home to roost.

    1. I don’t think its professional to do name calling on this platform Mr Ndlovu. Focus on the merits and demerits of the Zimfon proposition and it’s legality instead of ruble rousing. I also suggest you approach POTRAZ or Africom and offer your own VoIP services if you are such an innovator.

      1. If Gerry Dumani stole the project then the people ought to know as well. We might as well air it all here, after all, the Zimfon team is the one under scrutiny. What were you saying @3545749d8fe30024d5c56621c0ae0a79:disqus ?

        1. Guys just provide your own service and stop all this mudslinging. You seem to have nothing else to do. Go talk to POTRAZ, Econet, Telecel, TelOne, the list is endless and stop showing your lack of professionalism

        2. If we assume kuti Gerry Dumani was indeed the thieving lowlife who stole a brilliant project from mr ndhlovu does that mean kuti this idea of zimfon would have been given the green light by potraz, surely not? Or would mr ndlovu have already hatched a work around? Hmmmm very odd. But if true shame on you Gerry Dumani. Pray tell more Mr Ndhlovu…

    2. And the plot thickens…

      Ideas are volatile lil things that u should seal in a jar,lock up in a cage,bury in some obscure place in your backyard. They cease to be “yours” the moment u share them.

      History can testify….

      Good thing is,they are an infinite set.So u can still think of others

  7. If the man next door has a small house, that doesnt mean you should too.

    That logic is flawed (you would get away with it in creche though).

    1. Action speaks louder than words. :Hear say.. we don’t hear what you say, we see the results of what has been done!” This is the world we live in, deliverables world. Excellence is about repetition.If you make a song or do anything and are a creater you can do it constantly. This is a platform that covers the doers and those that envy them… I know they are many Peter Ndlovu, Jay z, Miheal Jackon wannabes that say they where better those successful individuals stole my rhymes and my moon walk…etc The floor is open, create, moonwalk and ryhme if you are good, nothing can stop you. Lets invent, lets ryhme and moonwalk… the world awaits!

      1. Indeed Prof. The grave yards are the richest place in the world, full of riches and ideas that where never acted upon. I will always applaud action and ideas and visions seen to completion. Envision, work and Produce. If you cant complete the phases you have failed! People need to be told soberly sometimes that they have failed, or just don’t have it. When we see real products and services that work, we should learn to applaude the work and process it takes to turn anything that is of service to the world.Success is about completing the circle.

        1. This is the 21st century! Why are we even having this VOIP discussion.. Just shows how far behind we are as Zimbabweans. I thought we had the highest literacy rate of over 90% and the most literate on the continent dare i say thats close to number 1 in the world! Are we just literate and not smart coz definitely we all know its a digital age. How can we be confused by “voice” over internet protocol or have a problem with that! This is quite silly really… Lets be not just literate but use that ti inform us to create and compete.
          Living in Japan everything is seamless. Why cant we make our cutry like this so we can prosper it. How do you say no to saving people money. Money saved can be sent to our families that helps to improve consumption and helps to turn the economy. How can that not be good!

          1. Thank you Thoko..some sense finally. Living next door in Canada, This reminds me of what i see going on in the US How republicans can say Obama care is bad! At what point does helping your own Zimbabweans bad! There are crazy people out there i tell you insane. In Zim we have ngutsheni, we should slot some of these characters in there coz they will contaminate progressive space..

            1. No need to look in far off countries like Canada or Japan. Just cross the Zim borders (any one of them) and you see the difference when people understand that people matter. A small thing like keeping the mall floors clean and following simple systems like making sure ministries have a training budget! We are so behind the curve it makes you wonder which part of the planet we come from. Arguing about VOIP? What chance have we got in managing diamonds for the people,

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