Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile network operator has published a statement detailing its position regarding the recent mobile broadband tariff increases which were criticised by subscribers before being reversed.
In its statement Econet makes scathing remarks against the Minister of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira, accusing him of falsehoods and linking him and the country’s other mobile operators in a setup to discredit Econet.
It also alleges that the Minister is out to portray the new Director General of POTRAZ, Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulator, as being incompetent.
You can read the full statement below.
Until July 2016, we were running the WIFI INSIDE PROMOTION, the FREE WIFI ON PREPAID DATA BUNDLES PROMOTION, the INTERNATIONAL VOICE BUNDLES PROMOTION, the SMS AND WIN PROMOTION, and the USAGE BASED PROMOTION. All these promotions had the effect of offering reduced data prices and free data in some instances to our loyal customers. We applied for an extension of these promotions. Our Applications were declined on the basis that a new Regulatory Framework to govern promotions would be introduced in mid-August. This ban on promotions was implemented against a background of Regulatory concerns over the perceived abuse of social media that we were accused of contributing to through our low data tariffs.
Liaison meetings between operators and the Regulator followed. The Regulator communicated its intention to fix a floor price for data and invited operators to contribute to the determination of the floor price. We fully participated in this exercise and in good faith. Being the only operator that has paid the punitive licence renewal fee of $137.5 million and being the only operator that is owed millions of dollars by Government owned competitors in respect of interconnection charges, our pricing structures are bound to be more expensive than those of our Government owned competitors.
Regulatory Notice Number 3 of 2016 was then issued on 7 December 2016 and amended on 29 December 2016 and on 9 January 2017. The Regulatory Notice set the floor prices on data and voice and fixed a mandatory compliance date of 9 January 2017. On 12 January 2017, when it became clear that an exercise that was driven by the Regulator with the full knowledge and participation of The Minister and that we thought would contribute towards leveling the playing field was in fact a farce and a setup intended by the Minister and our competitors who are under the Minister’s control to portray the new Director General of POTRAZ in a bad light and to portray Econet as a gluttonous and insensitive to the public our Board directed us to reverse the data tariff increases. We wrote and delivered a letter to POTRAZ on 12 January 2017 in which we indicated that we would revert to our old tariffs if the regulator did not ensure that all the operators complied with its regulatory notice by end of day 12 January 2017. To anticipate our reversal of the data tariff increases, the Minister, who is supposed to be on leave published a notice in the press in which he claimed to have reversed the tariff increases. This is false and misleading. Up to the time we did the roll back, no such reversal had been communicated to us. Our reversal of the tariff increases followed a directive by our own board. 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 sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to our customers and we shall credit the data accounts of our customers with additional data to the amount of the excessive charges. that we levied. 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.