Govt puts punitive law on ice

Clemence Manyukwe


GOVERNMENT has suspended the implementation of a draconian law that threatens to disrupt Econet Wireless operations through termination rates for international traffic favourable to state-owned Tel*One pendin

g the finalisation of a court application filed by the country’s largest mobile operator.


The court case in which Econet Wireless is contending that Statutory Instrument 70 is aimed at reintroducing Tel*One’s monopoly “through the back door” is expected to kick off today at the Harare High Court.


The case was supposed to start on Wednesday but Justice Lavender Makoni postponed it to today with the parties’ lawyers consenting to the suspension of the law that was supposed to come into effect on Wednesday.


Econet is the sole applicant while the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), Transport and Communications minister, Christopher Mushohwe and Tel*One are the respondents.


In its application filed this week through its lawyers Mtetwa & Nyambirai, Econet said Statutory Instrument 70/06 was one of many attempts by government to push it out of existence following a 1995 Supreme Court ruling abolishing Tel*One’s monopoly.


“The applicant’s right to operate a telecommunications business is clear from the licence provisions and its international gateway should not be interfered with without due process and it should not be expropriated by allowing 3rd respondent to unlawfully and unfairly benefit from the skewed regulations,” Douglas Mboweni, Econet’s chief executive, said in his founding affidavit.


Mboweni said that if under the Statutory Instrument Tel*One was allowed to charge US 15 cents against Econet’s US 20 cents, his company would be deprived of foreign currency but at the same time would be required to pay outgoing traffic in hard currency.


Mboweni said Potraz and Mushohwe’s “unhealthy interference” in Econet through Statutory Instrument 70 “was disguised through international termination rates manipulation which would have ensured that virtually all traffic coming into Zimbabwe would have come through 3rd respondent’s cheaper route, thus giving it a monopoly to earn foreign currency from international incoming traffic”.


Mboweni said the Statutory Instrument was vague in that it did not state what would be paid to mobile operators whose traffic went through Tel*One and in addition it did not state whether the parastatal would charge US 15 cents per second, per minute or per call.

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