JUSTICE Nicholas Mathonsi’s provisional ruling granting Telecel permission to continue operating in Zimbabwe’s mobile sector is most welcome.
The ruling was made after the company sought relief in the High Court after being ordered to cease operations with effect from April 28 by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulations Authority of Zimbabwe. Potraz gave Telecel 60 days to decommission its massive equipment dotted across the country, a move which would have affected over two million subscribers.
If unchecked by the High Court, Potraz’s order would have been catastrophic not only to Telecel but the Zimbabwe economy at large.
At a time when companies are retrenching at an alarming rate, about 1 000 Telecel workers were in danger of being thrown out of formal employment.
On the streets, thousands of vendors who survive on selling Telecel recharge cards and hundreds of other small-time businesspeople operating teleshops would have been left in the lurch. Besides these, many other people whose livelihoods revolve around providing goods and services to the mobile operator would have no means of survival.
It is difficult to understand why Potraz and Supa Mandiwanzira, the Telecommunications minister felt it necessary to shut down a company which has shown commitment to long-term investment in Zimbabwe.
Granted, Telecel might have struggled to pay an astronomic $137,5 million licence fee demanded by Potraz — something quite understandable in a liquidity constrained environment — but why would anyone with a functional brain see wisdom in causing job loses?
Who does not know that it was because of Telecel’s aggressive marketing strategies that call charges went down in Zimbabwe? Telecel provided the much-needed competition in the telecommunication sector, which forced providers to offer quality services to the consumers.
Removing Telecel from the scene, for whatever reason, is the last thing that is desirable in a faltering economy like ours.
The Zanu PF government which failed to create the two million jobs promised in its June 2013 election manifesto, should help, rather than destroy a company that has survived against all odds since 1998 and is keen to play its part in the telecommunications sector.
We hope reason will prevail in the Zanu PF cabinet, and the mobile operator will be allowed to do its business unhindered by self-serving politicians who, like vultures, hope to pick the pieces when Telecel falls apart.