Former Min of ICT Supa should be ashamed for suggesting the government block Starlink over mean tweets about Zanu on X

Leonard Sengere Avatar
Supa Mandiwanzira

“To whom much is given, much is expected,” says Luke 12v48. I take this to mean two people can say the same stupid thing, but it may be excusable for one and not for the other. Supa Mandiwanzira made such an absurd and insensitive suggestion that I still find it difficult to believe that a former Minister of ICT could say something so out of touch.

Supa was the Minister of Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security from 2014 to 2018. He was dropped from the position despite securing a seat in Parliament in the 2018 harmonised elections.

Not long after that, he was arrested on charges of criminal abuse of office. He was also accused of un-procedurally appointing his personal assistant to the Potraz board. He was subsequently cleared of all the charges.

Supa retained his Parliamentary seat in the 2023 elections. This means he still gets to interact with ministers in Parliament even though he is no longer one. Which means he gets to audition for the job he obviously believes should be his. Case in point…

Last week in a parliamentary session, Supa mentioned how the EU is investigating X (Twitter) for spreading misinformation. He wants us to consider that when deciding whether to grant Starlink an operating license in Zimbabwe. Said Supa,

Given the misinformation concerns raised by the EU regarding one of Elon Musk’s channels, I wanted to ask the minister of ICT whether the action by the EU will be considered when deciding whether to license Starlink?

His argument was that Elon Musk is a major shareholder in Starlink, a company that is in the process of applying for an operating licence in Zimbabwe. Elon also owns X, a company being investigated by the EU. He argued that the EU’s investigation of X should affect Starlink’s license application.

It’s a ridiculous argument, and I’m glad the current Minister of ICT, Tatenda Mavetera, immediately dismissed it. She rightly said X’s problems shouldn’t affect Starlink’s application process, since they’re two different companies, even though they have the same owner.

This man, Supa, was once the Minister of ICT and so he is acutely aware of the challenges Zimbabwe faces in that sector. This means he knows just how big of a deal Starlink is as we discussed here:

Why, then, would Supa make such a – there’s no sugarcoating it – boneheaded argument? All was revealed in the statements he made trying to sell his absurd argument.

Winning favour with the President

See, Supa was appointed Minister of ICT when Robert Mugabe was in charge. After the coup-not-coup in 2017, the country got a new leader and he got to appoint his own cabinet. Unfortunately for Supa, he did not make the cut.

So, although Supa may bleed Zanu PF, apparently he is not on Mnangagwa’s list of trusted lieutenants. Hence he is trying to signal to the President that he’s a diehard who is always looking out for the party’s interests. He’s trying to curry favour with E.D.

To really sell his argument, Supa talked about how X is being used to disparage (constantly criticise and speak negatively about) the country’s leadership, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

He went full politician and said the party and E.D. ought to hold the fact that some people say mean things about Zanu PF on X against Elon Musk.

We’re sick of it

Ordinary Zimbabweans are sick of this kind of thinking. We have had enough of politicians using the power we give them to settle political differences.

Supa would deprive the nation of internet access to get one over a man who does not care about Zimbabwe. Musk is not losing sleep over Starlink not being licensed in Zimbabwe.

I don’t think Supa was actually calling for what he called for. He, more than most, knows that Zimbabwe needs Starlink and that the current administration looks favourably at it. Supa was merely posturing, just showing the brass that he is a clever boy who can craft diabolical schemes in service of the party.

Unfortunately for him, it does not look like it’s going to work. All he really showed was that E.D. got it right in going with Tatenda Mavetera instead of him and on this evidence I hope Supa never gets to sit in that ICT chair again.

At this point, I would take fellow former ICT ministers Kazembe Kazembe or Webster Shamhu over Supa.

Sounding smart

Supa also made sure everyone knew that he had paid attention when watching the news the day before. He educated the house on the fact that X could end up paying 6% of its revenues in penalties in the EU for failing to regulate misinformation.

He then asked Minister Mavetera if Zimbabwe would also enforce the same punishment. Supa reminded the house that there are people who abuse the President and other Zanu PF politicians on X before allowing the minister to respond.

I believe on some level Supa was also trying to catch her off guard and make her look incompetent. Mavetera was wise to his posturing and manoeuvring.

Mavetera told him that the country’s Cyber Protection Bill would oversee X, and if any of those claimed cases were proven, the platform would be penalised according to that same law.

We deserve better

I think Minister Mavetera did very well in responding to the ridiculousness that the honourable MP Mandiwanzira brought to the house. She did not fall for the politicking shenanigans that Supa was peddling.

I am disappointed in Supa Mandiwanzira. He knows better but he does not care. He appears to be on a mission to endear himself to the President at any cost.

Supa may have miscalculated it though because licensing Starlink and getting internet access to all the corners of Zimbabwe is something that E.D.’s administration can use to campaign in 2028. It would be a tangible achievement that no one could deny.

I actually believe the government would sooner waive Starlink’s licence fee as some of us are calling for than heed Supa’s advice. I hope that’s the case.

Also read:

Tell your MP that this is why people are excited about Starlink – access, affordability, reliability

Zimbabwe has received Starlink’s application for an operator’s license – Jenfan Muswere



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  1. Bounty hunter

    Very true the minister proved that she is better than supa

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Supa is older, has more experience, has more connections, is trained in verbal jousting and yet this exchange showed just how much worse off we would be with him in charge.

  2. D.K.

    That man is owner of a radio station and, I think, he has been setting himself up to take over Telecel by hook or crook, or go the long way of setting up a new mobile network. He sees Musk and Starlink as the major obstacle to his ambition as, with the country open for business, our people are used to milking us to the bone without anyone protecting us. He sees a threat to his profit calculations if Starlink is licensed. However, Starlink’s licence is more like a marriage license whose acquisition or non acquisition does not stop its operation. It can work with or without one. With our acquired reliance on law and lawfare for almost anything in our lives, I can see him trying to get Starlink made illegal, though rumour has it that ZBC is already using it. Unlike the local network providers who have the keys and on/off switch and personnel in the country, Starlink is the real “pie in the sky”. Forcing Starlink to be licenced locally would be the same as trying to licence air or wind to blow locally, or licencing the sun to shine locally. They may as well start with looking at why GPS is everywhere, in their cars and their mobile phones and they overlooked licencing it . Do they know that some of the mobile phones of today have the electronics for satellite communication in addition to GPS?
    Our legislators should be encouraging for universal internet data access just as Malawi has started implementing, where free WiFi at 1gigabyte per device per day, no password required, can be accessed from markets, schools, public hospitals, libraries, airports and many other places. As long as those who make laws to do with business want to compete with those in business, they will always make the laws to take out those who are already in to make space for themselves!

    1. Leonard Sengere

      You might be on to something there. He was/is probably trying to kill many birds with one stone. If his suggestions were heeded, it would raise his political stock and protect some of his business interests in one fell swoop.

      You mentioned the Telecel thing and I’ve got my tinfoil hat on and I’m starting to wonder. This man was charged with buying Telecel shares on behalf of the govt without approval from the Treasury. Shows you just how much he believed in the idea.

      I do think Telecel will go down barring a shareholder change whether Starlink is banned or not. So, he may be looking to protect his other ventures. I would not put it past him.

      Thanks for mentioning the Malawi thing. Looking into exactly how it works.

  3. Wengai Burwa

    Starlink is bringing in the same economic benefits that the mobile revolution brought. To try and get starlink blocked is the most selfish and meanest thing supa could do. The writer correctly pinpointed supa’s motive, – political expediency. It’s embarrassing and disheartening to hear such a senior gvt official going off tangent. Why would anyone in his right senses what internet access banned. But again this could be motivated by selfishness. His business empire would collapse under more accessible and open internet. More media business could come up and thrive with more internet bandwidth available. Supa is a looking for political relevance which he will not even get.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Nothing about his suggestion had anything to do with the country or its people. It was pure selfishness at play, by a man who knows the actual situation on the ground and how his suggestion would set the country back. You’re right to say it’s not only selfish, it is mean, it is evil.

  4. z a n u i s s h i t

    get rid of z a n u and Zim wouldbe a better place

  5. Chimusorobhangu

    DFA we know you sir

  6. The Empress

    I am bored so I am going to play devil’s advocate today.

    Comrades let’s say the ugly things upfront. How are we going to control starlink? Our local Internet providers are simple to deal with. We say jump they jump nd don’t ask stupid questions like “how high?” And sometimes if necessary a few of our cadres can have accidents when ploughing their fields, chopping up the fibre optic cable backbone in 20 different places. But Starlink is different there’s nothing to chop, the owner is hard to get to and to be blunt about it he’s too rich to threaten. All we get is negatives with no positives so why are we wasting time discussing this? Deny the application.

    How is starlink going to improve the Internet situation in Zimbabwe exactly? Because of the way I see it the only people who are going to get any benefits out the whole situation are the same people who could afford internet in the first place.
    It’s going to hurt our local based internet providers. We all know that Potraz limits how much providers can charge for data. I’m now speculating that Potraz also sets lower limits on data prices as well. (I don’t know if this is true! Correct me if I am wrong)

    Now if this is true it will be a a double kick because our local based providers can not follow suit by lowering prices to compete. And government will not allow it because it will disrupt the revenue collection (tax) that it heavily relies on.

    Local internet providers paid millions of US$ for licences that gave them the privelege to operate in Zimbabwe. But starlink is going to be given permission for free?! How is that fair? I propose we give our police another avenue of self revenue collection by completely banning starlink in Zimbabwe, heavy fines nd prison sentences are a must in this case.

    Remember once Starlink is allowed to operate in Zimbabwe. The justification for the high licence fees becomes moot. And that’s risky even when courts are supposedly captured.

    Have you people thought about how detrimental to the governments plans to promote the local currency Starlink would be? Starlink only accepts US$. Let’s say 1 million people subscribe to Starlink, that’s US$25 million! a month US$300 a year! All so people can see Mai Titi in high definition? Nonsense!
    I haven’t even talked about the US$500 million the people uesd to buy the Starlink kits in the first place. How many helicopters is that? How many top of the range cars for the chiefs is that? Comrades this can not be allowed to happen!
    Remember the government in the forex auction last week sold only US$20 million. Even up to now some of the winners still have not received those funds. Forex is hard to get it must not be wasted on trivial things!

    1. Africa Svinura

      🤣🤣🤣🤣 funny

    2. Mvura

      I’m not sure if you are joking or not. In case you aren’t…

      You can’t look at Starlink’s 21st century entrance into Zim with a 20th century mindset. You have to consider the economic benefits to Zimbabwe when businesses, farmers, and mines have greater access to the internet. Whatever cost Zimbabwe will lose out on licensing fees, Zimbabwe will stand to gain much more in the efficiencies and opportunities greater access to internet creates.

      I know of several mines and farms here in Zim that have Starlink already and it’s been a massive improvement to their operations. It will lead to greater economic output and jobs. The government must approve Starlink as soon as possible.

    3. Prof. Miraimuone

      Starlink inenge yawinner the Popular Vote.

  7. Super

    You gave me a good whipping in your article

    1. The Empress

      But seriously though. Is the cost that the country will pay worth it in the long run?

      Yes yes the mines will run more efficiently etc etc…but this reminds me of the joke about Chinese companies they’ll come to your country to build a road nd they’ll bring their own labour even their own shovels! At the end of the story you have a new road but not the skills to build roads.

      Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t have foreigners investing/doing projects in Zimbabwe but in this case it’s very different we have our own homegrown companies that we will kill in the name expediency.

      Now the government who’s mostly to blame in this case wants to make a populist decision to allow starlink to operate in Zimbabwe. But they are the very same people who put in place rules that caused the poor network nd high data costs situation in the first place.
      I’m not a fan of Econet but even I have to admit that they get treated very poorly by government. I remember Supa when he was the Minister claiming to have saved Econet by not allowing MTN into the country.
      It sounded good until you thought about it a bit then you would realise that this was complete nonsense.
      MTN would have had to either buy a license or a company NetOne or Telecel
      NetOne the government wasn’t going to sell
      Telecel the ownership was (still?) a mess
      So the only option would have been to buy a license.
      Then a bout of vicious cutthroat competition would have ensued
      I don’t know about you but my money would have been on Econet surviving after all they have done this successfully in other countries before, the 2 MNO’s on the other they probably would have closed down unless they started being serious. But that still would have been better than the situation we have now.
      The government desperately protects NetOne/Telecel. By either for example forcing shared infrastructure (towers), delaying permits for new towers, new rules that always seem to be set towards helping the 2 MNO’s whilst restricting Econet.
      But that’s OK but not OK because that’s the name of the game, what infuriates me is that even with all the added advantages NetOne/Telecel still can’t make a profit!
      I’m still not sure that they paid any money for their operating licences.
      To me this move is made out spite Econet will definitely suffer. But netone, telecel, and Telone will carry on constantly getting injections of capital from the government as they have always done in business as usual.

      So yes we could authorise Starlink but the cost to the country at the end of the day might be too high.

      1. Always Off Topic

        What cost?
        You mean the cost of continuously having to bail out netone and telecel. That comes from our pocket through the diversion of taxes that should have been used for other things. The cost that we all pay due to the lack of competition in the industry, which results in poor infrastructure, needlessly raising the cost of doing business. High transaction costs on money transfers are linked to high data costs. Education is being greatly curtailed due to poor broadband. What of the rural areas? Satellite broadband is the new kid and soon it will probably be available on one of the next iphones. It will give
        new meaning to the term Over the top services. Imagine having connectivity that covers the entire planet , without bearing the upfront costs to build the network ourselves. Since we have failed in the last mile connectivity arena. The likes of Econet can also benefit from Starlink. Besides Starlink has been operating in other countries and I have not heard of any MNO’s closing down due to its presence in those markets , so what cost are you talking about?

        1. The Empress

          The first part of you comment tells you the answer to cost that I’m talking about.

          Government is going bail out NetOne nd Telecel they’re are not going to let them die. Because even right now when the rules of play are tilted in their favour they still somehow keep making losses and it’s going to get worse when Starlink enters into play.

          Lack of competition? I am not sure what you mean. I can argue that incompetence is the main problem we have basically the management at Telecel/Netone would fail to run a brothel in Gomorrah, cos seriously how do you fail to compete when even the referee is actively playing on your side?! My answer is the referee should play his proper position and the companies should be privatised.

          The high cost of money transfers is mainly caused by Government taxes and the charges by the companies data prices have very little/nothing to do with the it.

          On education unless the government miraculously has a change of heart on it’s priorities nothing will really change. So Starlink brings cheaper data hallelujah! But nothings changed. Now let’s go go home and barely make a living. Remember for E Learning and the like every student needs either a computers or a laptop or a tablet or at the very least a smartphone to get E-Learning up and running properly the problem is not the Data the problem is the Hardware! Government has shown that it lacks the will and or the money to fully implement E-Learning.

          Ah yes the fabled silver key/bullet to the road to riches since we messed up the roll out of infrastructure due to incompetence, Policy miss steps and pure spite let’s give Starlink the entire cake and
          then wash our hands of the whole issue. Sounds like a good idea yes?

          When Elon talks in the USA about Starlink he says it bring faster and more internet connectivity to the rural USA but lets not concentrate on the rural part nd ignore the fact that rural areas in Zimbabwe very much different from the USA. I hear that in Mbizi area the people are making a killing growing sesame seeds so they’re a prime market for Starlink but it’s not the same all round the country in most places $24 for Internet is a dream let alone $500 for the kit.
          So what is probably and most likely to happen is most if not all the uptake for Starlink will happen in the towns and cities decimating the little that we have managed to build up. Who cares? you’ll ask.
          I know ku kiya kiya is now the anthem in Zimbabwe but lets spare a thought for those poor bastards who have to work at the MNO’s for a living because Elon doesn’t even have a cash register in Zimbabwe it’s all online so everyone from the techs to the floor cleaner might be potentially out of a job.
          Those are just some of costs that I was referring to.

  8. Cde che

    Super and the empress are a threat to the development of mankind. The two think zimbos should continue to held in ransom by Zimbabwe’s vampire network providers who continue to suck the little $$$ we have despite giving us raw deals. Can anyone try and change the effects of globalization? If supa is okay with using telone internet he should just use it akavhara romo rake. I didn’t expect that to come from former ict tsar.

  9. Mango

    Telecel (or OG telecel team) had better keep an eye on StarLink. If they play their cards right, they could make a stunning comeback by being the first to use the upcoming tower-free satellite mobile service backend SpaceX is gearing up for. Instant national coverage for voice and data is a game changer!

    1. Anonymous

      Ehe Ka! Kkk

  10. X Supafan

    I have a confession. Way back when, back when to me, zanu was just something that existed in some textbooks and sometimes popped up on our 20kg Philips TV, Supa was my idol! Hero worship sometimes just doesn’t survive contact with the hero and reality 🤣

    Anyway, StarLink/SpaceX like any other company, should be judged on it’s direct conduct and potential benefits. X is it’s own entity and stands on its own merits. Trying to conflate the sentiments of one company’s users as policy on another just doesn’t make sense. For old times sake, I’ll be generous and say maybe Supa was setting the minister up for an easy layup.

  11. BeIT

    I can safely conclude that @Empress has shifted from barring Starlink application to blemishes government bailouts yet foregoing the benefit of Starlink coverage. And even if government rejects localised use of Starlink, people are already using it and will continue regardless of your said fines and imprisonment. It’s just one of those things government can’t put a COMMAND sticker on. DStv RSA tirikungowona wani. Supa is selfish, Empress is bored, period. 😄

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