Zimbabwe U-turns on steep data, voice tariff hikes

zimbabwe harare

Zimbabwe isn’t having the best of starts to 2017. The country has faced floods, water shortages and even gold falling from the sky, but the latest issue setting netizens’ tongues a-wag is the government’s data and voice tariff hikes.

The country’s local telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, issued new minimum price floors to all data providers, which markedly increased the price of all data packages in the country. The increase was initially aimed at addressing the “under-pricing of voice and data services,” POTRAZ noted.

But thanks to public outcry and social media onslaught, the regulator has gone back on the decision.

“I have directed an immediate suspension of the tariff increases that were effected two days ago, to the dismay of many mobile phone users,” the country’s ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira announced in a statement.

“I have been told that the new prices were actually proposed by the mobile operators to the regulator.

“While it is conceivable that the price of data may go up, the margin by which the prices have gone up is shockingly high and can only reflect insensitivity to fellow Zimbabweans and gluttonous corporate greed.”

Zimbabwe’s telecom’s regulator POTRAZ has reverted the steep data tariff increases it implemented earlier this week

The directive, which came into effect on Monday 9 January and lasted all but a week, forced mobile operators in Zimbabwe to charge at least US$2c per MB, and US$12c per minute for calls. This meant that internet packages, like Econet’s 250MB bundle, ballooned to US$5. Before the increase, users could get eight times as much data for just US$3.

“Internet is now a key driver of economic growth – innovation, entrepreneurship and government service delivery. Internet access is at the centre of all development. It, therefore, follows that it must be accessible – physically and financially,” Mandiwanzira added.

This isn’t the first time Zimbabwe’s ill management of its ICT has come under the spotlight. In July 2016, the country experienced a widespread social media outage, affecting the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook. The outages were linked by some media organisations to the #ShutdownZimbabwe campaign by citizens protesting the government and country’s economic turmoil.

The latest tariff hike also comes after August 2016‘s steep increase to data prices in the country, which saw prices spike by 500% in some instances.

Mandiwanzira has urged operators to refund users for additional costs incurred during this period.

Andy Walker
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