Battle to Control Telecommunication Portfolio Intensifies

THE power struggle for the communication portfolio rambles on as the two ministers at the centre of the controversy, Nelson Chamisa and Nicholas Goche, issued the same statement on TelOne tariffs this week.


Sources at Munhumutapa Building told the Zimbabwe Independent that a senior editor at the Herald was summoned on Wednesday evening to the Ministry of Information offices for a briefing by Goche, who is the Minister of Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development, on a government directive to TelOne to reduce its February to June tariffs by at least 50%.
The briefing was attended by Information Minister Webster Shamu and his permanent secretary George Charamba. Goche issued the same statement that Chamisa, who is the Minister of Information Communication Technology, made at a press conference around 3pm on the same day.
Sources at Pockets Hill said the state broadcaster, ZBC, is now in trouble for carrying the story on Chamisa’s press conference yesterday morning. The broadcaster however switched to attribute the statement to Goche in the afternoon.
The sources at Munhumutapa said Goche, Charamba and Shamu were insisting that President Robert Mugabe in April relieved Chamisa of the communications part of the portfolio and handed it over to Goche, a Zanu PF politburo member.
This, they said, means that he is in charge of telecommunications companies, like NetOne, TelOne, Zimpost and their regulatory body, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe. Chamisa yesterday lambasted Zanu PF for interfering with affairs in his ministry.
Reacting to the story in the Herald that attributed what he had said at a press conference to Goche, the MDC national spokesperson said it was an attempt by Zanu PF to mislead people that the Post and Telecommunications Act fell under the Ministry of Transport.
Chamisa said: “It is not in the public interest to mislead the nation,” said Chamisa. “I held a press conference on Wednesday pursing the instruction I had given to TelOne not to disconnect customers sometime in June. I made this commitment to the public following an outcry that TelOne was charging exorbitant bills, only to be surprised to see yesterday’s Herald attributing the statements I made at the press conference to Goche who is the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, not communication. Communication falls under the ICT ministry that is the situation in this country and that is what shall remain.”    
Chamisa told journalists on Wednesday that he ordered TelOne to slash its tariffs by 50% to allow disgruntled customers to pay realistic charges while allowing the parastatal to also remain viable.
He said: “From February to end of June (2009), the tariff is going to be 5 cents per minute. The tariff was 10 cents, which constituted 30 cents per unit (of three minutes).”
He said the controversial tariff management by TelOne was still not consistent with the average monthly use of services by customers in which households usually use up to 150 units while small businesses use 1 500. This is not the first time that Chamisa has clashed with a Zanu PF government minister over the communications department.
In February Chamisa clashed with the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity Webster Shamu at a meeting meant to address workers at NetOne head office. Shamu was scheduled to address a meeting at the parastatal, which fell under Chamisa’s ministry.
However, the meeting had to be cancelled after Chamisa, who also attended the meeting, approached Shamu asking him in what capacity he was attending the meeting without his knowledge.
In April, it was reported that President  Mugabe had cleared the confusion by moving the communication portfolio to Goche but this was disputed by the MDC.
The MDC-T has raised this issue as one of the outstanding issues in its position paper to the just-ended Sadc summit in Kinshasa, DRC.

 

Wongai Zhangazha