Econet in the clear


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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.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 04HARARE80, ECONET IN CLEAR FOR NOW

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE80

2004-01-14 12:33

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HARARE 000080

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

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

TAGS: ECPS ECON PGOV ZI

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.

SULLIVAN

(55 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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