STATE-OWNED telecommunications player NetOne was prejudiced of millions of dollars as revealed by a 2016 forensic audit report. This week, Zimbabwe Independent reporter Hazel Ndebele (HN) caught up with NetOne board chair Peter Chingoka (PC, pictured) to discuss the corrective measures he intends to take. In the interview, he also gives an update on the recommendations contained in the audit report which have been implemented, among other issues. Find below excerpts of the interview.
HN: Year 2016 was a bad year for NetOne as far as its image and reputation is concerned. As the new board chair, what corrective measures are you taking?
PC: When we came on board, one of our first resolutions was to adopt an open-door policy to Zimbabweans and the media who are the eyes of the nation. We had nothing to hide and insisted on transparency.
Once you avoid the stakeholders, you trigger speculation and this culminates in misleading information, tarnishing the image of an organisation. The immediate priority was to engage the important stakeholders, the employees and customers. They got a chance to share their views on how they felt we could become a better organisation. This was necessitated through customer feedback sessions, staff briefings and press conferences.
We held our first-ever annual general meeting and published our financials for all to see. Most importantly, we beefed up our public relations department whose mandate is to project the true picture of our brand. These initiatives have brought greater visibility and transparency to organisational operations and all the stakeholders greatly appreciate this.
HN: How far have you gone in implementing the recommendations made by the audit report on NetOne?
PC: All the legacy issues in the audit report have been addressed, save for some matters which are sub judice. The main issues raised by the audit were the non-adherence to laid-down procedures. We quickly put in place several corrective measures and embarked on a transformational process to turn around the business and at the same time complying with regulations.
At the centre of all this, we are diligently upholding corporate governance principles and have significantly strengthened the internal control environment in line with best practice. The audit highlighted a lot of weaknesses in the control environment of our business and I am happy to say that we have addressed most of the weaknesses and have introduced policies and procedures that enhance good corporate governance.
We have already regularised almost all contracts with the State Procurement Board. We now have a pool of qualified chartered accountants in our finance department. As I mentioned earlier, we held our first-ever annual general meeting and published our financial statements this year.
HN: What is your current market share and what are you doing to expand it?
PC: From the Potraz (Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe) Report of quarter two 2017 recently published, our market share now stands at 36,4%. Three years ago our market share was less than 20% due to the limited product range we had.
There are a number of activities the business is carrying out in order to close the gap and, subsequently take over the market: we have engaged customers on their needs and responded by launching new products which meet their needs. We have rolled out new services which include One-Fi, OneFusion, OneTech, NewsOnOne, RadioOnOne & Khuluma24/7 and the market has responded well to these and if you saw in the Potraz report we are heading northwards.
We introduced the Basa Se Basa customer acquisition campaign in Harare and rolled it out into all other zones across country. Not only has it created employment for over 20 000 youths, the programme has also assisted in increasing our subscriber base. We are also expanding the sales distribution network through opening new shops and franchises to reach out to new as well as existing customers.
Now that we have relaunched our new mobile money platform, we are expecting significant market growth. The growth we have experienced has come on the backdrop of OneFusion, but with the launch of OneMoney we expect to accelerate.
HN: You have launched OneMoney, what difference will it make, considering OneWallet was lagging behind?
PC: We have revamped our mobile money platform to come up with a game-changer — OneMoney. We believe this platform is the real panacea to the cash challenges facing our nation as we move towards a cash-lite economy.
OneMoney was officially launched on Wednesday but you will notice that when we introduced it to the market three months ago it became the talk of town and the debit card has become very popular and we have seen a lot of registrations. The past three months have been a testing phase to ensure all teething problems were addressed before the official launch.
This is a game-changer not only for NetOne, but for Zimbabwe. In line with our business principles we have made it very affordable for all the transacting public and with the debit card it means everyone who is unbanked can now use this card.
The card is integrated to all the banks through ZIPIT, bringing a whole lot of convenience to our customers. This is made possible by our widest coverage which caters for the previously marginalised areas. You can also use it at any Zimswitch point of sale. It comes with a lot of packages, for instance you can use it to pay toll fees, groceries, utility bills — in fact, almost everything is One Time.
HN: You introduced OneFusion, what has been the uptake?
PC: OneFusion is a popular product which is very affordable and offers an all-round access to communication services.
OneFusion is a lifestyle-centric service and we have had millions of subscribers migrating to our network because of this product. It has been embraced beyond our expectations. We are humbled by the confidence that Zimbabweans have shown in NetOne. Through OneFusion, Zimbabweans are getting value for their money through affordable rates and quality service. The bundles start from US$5 all the way up to US$200.
OneFusion’s cheapest offerings are the US$5 which grants subscribers six times more than what is being offered in the market. For a period of 30days we offer 60 on-net voice minutes, 18 minutes to other networks, 300MB data, 700MB WhatsApp bundles, 900MB Facebook bundles and 10 SMS. The larger offers from US$50 upwards also include international voice minutes.
HN: Do you think the telecoms market still needs more players to come in, given that telecoms companies like South African giant MTN have expressed willingness to come into the Zimbabwean market?
PC: There has always been an opportunity to bring in new players. As NetOne we always embrace competition because the winner will always be the customer. We are ready to compete with anyone.
HN: Where do you envisage NetOne being five years from now?
PC: If you look at the current trend, it’s not a secret that Zimbabweans are migrating to our network because of our customer-focussed products which are affordable and efficient. There is no doubt we will be the leading network provider.
You will see our business evolving by investing in new revenue streams around our data network focussing more on content and multimedia in line with world trends. We are aiming to expand our business to be regional through mergers and acquisitions.
I see a NetOne that would have reclaimed its top position in the sector. The numerous innovative products that we are rolling out are real game-changers and just watch the space as we unleash them.
Fact File: Peter Chingoka
- First black cricketer to play at a high level and appeared in List A matches for the “South Africa African XI”;
- Attended school at Hartmann House and St George’s College;
- Has an LLB degree from University of South Africa;
- Has worked at Ziscosteel, Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, British Airways, Tube and Pipe Industries as well as Ad-apt Advertising and Marketing;
- Chairman of Afro-Asia working committee;
- Is honorary life vice-president of the African Cricket Association; and
- Former vice-president of Zimbabwe Cricket Union now Zimbabwe Cricket.