by Staff Reporter
HARARE-THIS week’s revelation by President Robert Mugabe’s government that is planning to take over Telecel Zimbabwe only serves to confirm the rumour that the cash-strapped administration has been throwing spanners at the telecommunications firm as it prepared ground to seize the possible milk cow.
This week Information Communications Technology, Postal and Courier Services minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, told Parliament that the government is seeking to take over 100 percent shareholding of Telecel Zimbabwe through Zarnet, a state-owned internet service provider firm.
Government sources say Munhumutapa Building has been behind all the problems at Telecel has been facing—which culminated it its licence being withdrawn in April—as it sought to debase the firm so that it can take it for a song.
“The government is desperately looking for money and Telecel was targeted because there are people in government who are convinced that this is the only sector where it can get money easily,” said a government official.
The source said that in its plans, the government—which already owns another mobile phone firm Net-One—would seek to have the two firms ride on the back of privately-owned Econet Wireless, which has invested heavily in infrastructure.
The source said this was the reason why, since the beginning of the year, there has been spirited efforts to undervalue Telecel, with some quarters putting its value at a pitiful $50 million.
“I will tell you that Zarnet will pay next to nothing… in fact it just another grabbing exercise that is taking place because Telecel shareholders have no choice… either they give in or the company is closed,” he said.
Since the beginning of the year, the government, through Mandiwanzira, has been demanding that all players in the telecoms sector should share infrastructure even though it is only Econet that has been consistently making capital investments.
“You see, the plan is very simple… Econet will build the infrastructure and the government through Net-One and Telecel, will just be reaping the benefits,” the source explained.
The government, through the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) has already been hectoring Econet to invest more in infrastructure.
A statement issued by Econet earlier this month in which it made a veiled attack on government’s bias corroborated this.
“POTRAZ sets out aggressive network roll-out targets for completion by the company (Econet) by 2018. Econet had to borrow to finance this roll out programme,” read the statement in which Econet pointed out that it was the only licensed operator in the market having been made to pay US137.5 million for its licence “within a limited time period.”