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AFRIK-IT  March 1997

AFRIK-IT March 1997

Subject:

Zimbabwe - Cellphones; what's the fuss about?

From:

David Lush <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Wed, 26 Mar 1997 08:36:33 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (179 lines)

From the Zimbabwe Insider newsletter:

>CELLPHONES: WHAT'S THE FUSS ABOUT?
>
>The Insider, March issue ( editorial)
>
>
>Strive Masiyiwa has been struggling for years to establish a cellular
>telephone network in
>Zimbabwe, and the government has persistently denied him the right to do
>so. President
>Mugabe says telecommunications is too sensitive an area to just let go.
>One is bound to ask:
>are we talking business here or politics? If we are talking politics, well
>and fine, this is how
>some people earn their living, by talking. But if we are talking business,
>we are talking about
>making money. The squabble between Masiyiwa and the government seems to
>have ignored
>this  very important aspect. Is there really money in cellphones? Is there
>enough demand in
>Zimbabwe to warrant, one , two or three operators?
>
>Who really needs these cellphones?Certainly, it is not the average
>Zimbabwean voter who the
>government is bound to protect. It is not even the middle class Zimbabwean
>who can hardly
>afford a house and is being asked to pay a housing levy? It is not even
>the average business
>executive who needs that cellphone because he or she perhaps has a phone
>at the office and
>at home? It is therefore someone who needs to be on call all the time,
>someone who may be
>asked to make crucial decisions -- decisions that have to be made there
>and then and cannot
>wait the next minute, hour or wait until the following day. Definitely
>there are very few
>people like this.
>
>Indeed, we have to progress with the times. Anyone who needs one and can
>afford it, should
>be entitled a cellphone, but is it worth a fight that is threatening to
>break up the nation?  At
>$7.20 a minute for a call or even at $4.20 a minute compared to
>approximately 10 cents a
>minute on the ordinary phone shouldn t we be looking at what our
>priorities really are?
>When the idea was first floated --and this applies up to this day-- the
>idea of cellphones
>appealed to most business and even ordinary people because the Posts and
>Telecommunications Corporation was,  and is, failing to meet local
>demand. Some reports
>put the waiting list at   100 000. With such a waiting list,  it should
>astound anyone why the
>PTC should neglect this market and embark on a new one which will cater
>for perhaps only
>20 000 people who already have a service anyway.
>
>It has always been argued that the PTC should have taken advantage of the
>advent of the
>cellphone and the availability of private business to run them. The
>argument is that by letting
>private business take on this business, it would have been relieved of the
>pressure to urgently
>serve the business community as they could afford the cellphones. In this
>way it could then
>concentrate on servicing the 100 000 on its waiting list.  After all
>cellphones have to use its
>network so it would make money this way. But a lot of reasons why this
>could not be
>allowed were thrown in. And the whole thing has now been reduced to politics.
>
>On paper, a private company, Telecel has been awarded the tender to provide the
>independent service. Telecel has among its partners a consortium of
>indigenous business
>people and organisations. These are people who sat down and agreed that
>they wanted to do
>business together. Fair and fine. If the awarding of the tender was free
>and fair and above
>board that should have been the end of the story. People are bound to cry
>foul whenever
>they lose. But what business is it for the government to now say the
>winner of the tender
>should accommodate the losers? If the losers want to go into business with
>their competitor, it
>is up to them to bow down to their knees and say, can we come in with you.
>What was the
>point of putting the whole project to tender if at the end of the day the
>idea was to let
>everyone work together? The government could simply have asked all those
>interested in the
>cellphones to thrash their differences and come together.
>
>
>By ordering people to work together is the government not creating a
>dangerous precedent
>which might force the consortium, when things go wrong, to come back to
>government to
>bail it out. Too many people, who went into business on their own but are
>now in trouble
>seem to be claiming that it is the duty of the government to bail them
>out. Is the government
>not creating this dependence syndrome through the cellular phone project?
>Whose project is
>it in the first place, that of the government or the private companies
>that we are told have
>formed a consortium?
>
>For one thing,  it is an accepted fact that ZANU-PF is the government.
>Leaders of the
>indigenous consortium are not only ZANU-PF leaders or members but they are
>also too close
>to the ZANU-PF leadership. In fact, even though the tender was handled by
>the tender board,
>the fact that one of the leaders of the consortium is related to the Head
>of State and the other
>was, and may still be, a business partner of the husband of the Minister
>of Information under
>which the tender fell, should have rung alarm bells, that there could be a
>conflict of interest.
>Of course, this is not to say those related to high ranking government
>people should not be
>awarded tenders or go into business, all it means is that extra care has
>to be taken to make
>sure that everything is above board. People talk. And in Zimbabwe, talk on
>the streets seems
>to carry more weight than our media.
>
>Another thing we ought to be looking at is: who are we empowering? If we
>award tenders
>and form consortiums of organisations which depend on government for
>funding or on donor-
>funding, who are we actually empowering --these organisations or the
>government? It has
>always been an accepted fact from independence that there is no way this
>country can
>prosper without empowering indigenous people. No one argues with that but
>Zimbabwe has
>more than 11 million indigenous people. They are not all  business-minded
>but definitely
>there are some who are but are being denied a chance because the whole issue of
>indigenisation has been reduced to politics. No one is saying business and
>politics should not
>mix. They should mix, can mix, but when politics begins to dominate
>business, something
>must be wrong. In Zimbabwe, it appears, people are now going into politics
>to make money,
>yet it should be the other way round. People should make money first, and
>then go into
>politics. It is easier to scrutinise such people than to scrutinise those
>who go into politics first
>because they usually wield the power to prevent any investigations into
>how their  private
>lives.
>
>Looking at the wonders on our Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, one is bound to
>ask: is there not
>enough around for all of us, to do things fairly and squarely?
>
>
>
>--=====================_859343102==_
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
>
>Charles Rukuni, Insider Publications
>Publishers of The Insider, The Zimbabwe Products Digest
>The Law Society of Zimbabwe Directory, The Mortgage Game
>P.O. Box 1688, Harare, Zimbabwe
>Phone (263-4) 730522
>
>--=====================_859343102==_--

David Lush
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Private Bag 13386
Windhoek, Namibia
Tel. +264 61 232975, Fax. 248016
e-mail: [log in to unmask]

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