Telecoms firms await benefits

Charlene Ambali

TELECOMMUNICATIONS companies are not receiving assistance from the Universal Service Fund to which they contribute money for future expansion or to extend their facilities to under-serviced r

ural centres, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.


Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) director-general Cuthbert Chidoori said companies started contributing early last year but none of them had benefited as yet.


Responding to questions faxed to him last week, Chidoori said: “Contributions towards the fund from all licence holders who have Universal Service Fund obligations have been received by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe since the beginning of the year in 2002.”


Telecel and Net*One managing directors, Edward Mutsvairo and Reward Kangai respectively, confirmed their companies were contributing to the fund.


Potraz, which is the trustee of the fund, said no telecommunications company had benefited from the monies collected.


“The objectives of the fund are spelt out in the Postal and Telecommunications Act (Chapter 12:05) and since the fund is not operational there are no beneficiaries as yet,” said Chidoori.


Chidoori did not explain why the fund was not functional when companies were contributing to it nor how much had been contributed.


“No figure for the amount is available, but as soon as the fund is operationalised all monies (including appropriations from government) as stipulated in the Postal and Telecommunications Act, will be transferred into the Fund Account,” he said.


The money, according to the Act, is supposed to be granted to needy companies for them to extend their services to under-serviced areas.


Kangai said Net*One needed money from the fund for rural projects.


“We need the money to initiate rural projects. We need foreign currency to purchase equipment and it is unfortunate that we are paying in local currency and that must be converted into foreign currency.”


Kangai said there was a need for dialogue to make the most out of the fund.


“There is a need for consultation between us and Potraz so that we benefit from the fund,” he said.


Mutsvairo also said that there was a need for consultation with Potraz “so that our efforts become profitable”.