Econet’s local chief executive Douglas Mboweni had to assure United States embassy officials in Harare that the country’s biggest mobile phone network was not going to lose its licence after the state media had indicated that the network owned by Strive Masiyiwa, who also owned of the Daily News, could lose its licence.
The Daily News was closed in September 2003 for failing to register under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Commenting after talks with Mboweni, United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan said Mboweni’s account and the lapse of three weeks with no further official mention of Econet’s licence suggested that the initial report signalled politically motivated mischief by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, not anti-competitive manoeuvres by other telecom players.
“In this instance, the GOZ apparently will not cut off its nose to spite its face, for now preserving Zimbabwe’s most successful cellular phone operator while foregoing the opportunity further to sting Strive Masiyiwa, Econet’s principal owner and the publisher of the shuttered Daily News,” the ambassador said.
Viewing cable 04HARARE80, ECONET IN CLEAR FOR NOW
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 000080
AF/S FOR S. DELISI, L. AROIAN, M. RAYNOR
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: ECONET IN CLEAR FOR NOW
REF: HARARE 8
¶1. (SBU) Econet’s local chief executive Douglas Mboweni told
poloff on January 12 that the telecommunications firm had yet
to hear a word from the GOZ about government media press
reports suggesting it was in danger of losing its cellular
phone system operating license (reftel). Company
representatives recently broached the subject explicitly with
officials from POTRAZ, the national telecom regulator, who
said they knew of no GOZ plans to strip Econet of its
license. The government media has made no mention of the
matter since the initial December 24 attack on Econet in the
government-controlled Herald and Econet’s full page response
carried by the same paper the following week.
¶2. (SBU) According to Mboweni, Econet’s once troubled
relationship with POTRAZ has been improving. He said
POTRAZ’s leadership appreciated the benefits of competition
in the telecom sector and did not appear “out to get” POTRAZ.
He expected recent developments to improve the operating
environment for telecom firms in Zimbabwe generally during
the coming year, notwithstanding the obvious challenges
associated with the country’s economic distress. First, the
GOZ recently designated the telecom sector as a “productive
sector,” which would qualify it for low interest loans — an
opportunity that Econet was planning to exploit. In
addition, POTRAZ had approved significant tariff increases
and was expected to increase the termination rate for
international calls terminating in Zimbabwe from USD0.03 to
about USD0.20. This would help firms address inflation and
foreign exchange challenges.
¶3. (SBU) COMMENT: Mboweni’s account and the lapse of three
weeks with no further official mention of Econet’s license
suggest that the initial report signalled politically
motivated mischief by Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, not
anti-competitive maneuvers by other telecom players. In this
instance, the GOZ apparently will not cut off its nose to
spite its face, for now preserving Zimbabwe’s most successful
cellular phone operator while foregoing the opportunity
further to sting Strive Masiyiwa, Econet’s principal owner
and the publisher of the shuttered Daily News.