By Anna Chibamu
WHILE there has been a public outcry following a steep increase in mobile data tariffs in the country, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) claims Zimbabwe has a relatively cheaper rate by regional standards.
Potraz director general Gift Machengete told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT), Monday that the perception that Zimbabwean rates are expensive is wrong.
“The talk that Zimbabwe’s mobile data tariffs are highest in the region is not true and people should be careful by what is written in papers as well as other publications because the rates are very comparable with what is on the ground in the Sadc region.
“For example South Africa is at US$0.01cents per mega bite (MB) which translates to US$11 per 1GB, Lesotho is at $0.02 per MB, Malawi at US$0.04 per MB, Eswathini at US$0.05 per MB, Botswana US$0.9 per MB, Mozambique is the most expensive at US$013 per MB and Zimbabwe is at US$0.02 per MB,” said Machengete.
The Potraz boss said the recent outcry was because mobile telecommunication companies had discontinued data promotions leaving consumers having to buy bundles at the ordinary scale.
“Data costs/bundles were on promotion then. These were too way-way below the ‘new charges’. The service providers have simply removed the promotion. It is a blatant lie that our rates are high in the region,” Machengete added.
However, chairperson of the ICT Committee Charlton Hwende argued that there was something wrong with the promotion which had gone on for more than two years.
“The benchmarking thing is misleading. Our people are suffering and you insist that these charges are fair.
“The civil servants are using more than half of their salary on bundles alone. We cannot have a promotion for two years and say everything is correct,” Hwende said.
Zanu PF, Zvimba North MP weighed in.
“A promotion cannot last for too long, we need clarity on that,” said Chombo.
In response Machengete argued Zimbabweans need to fight for better salaries instead of focusing on price increases.
“We had to look at the most efficient hypothetical maximum operator, how much they would charge. They are not even charging the normal fees.
“We should not only look at tariffs but should look at salaries, affordability and taxes. We have a disparity right now and we cannot have our tariffs remain at such a low tariff.” The Potraz boss told parliamentarians.
Machengete highlighted that infrastructure investments by telecommunication companies had greatly improved although challenges persist because of costs of finances and foreign currency shortages. He added that there has been a decline in fixed line investment by State run TelOne which he said put in RTGS$57 million in 2017 and by 2018, it only invested $22 million in 2018.