Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MISA calls for consultation in Zimbabwe telecoms crisis

The Media Institute of Southern Africa has labeled the current telecommunications crisis in Zimbabwe, driven by hyperinflation as an affront to the rights and freedom of the citizens.

The crisis arose after Econet Wireless withdraw its contract line services for clients under the Business Partner scheme, which has left thousands of Zimbabweans deprived of their right to communicate, said a statement from MISA, Zimbabwe chapter.

“Other mobile service providers and affiliated service companies, in tandem with Econet Wireless, have increased tariffs, with the average cost of a text message having risen from approximately 1000 Zimbabwean dollar (approx. US$0.28) to at least 20 000 dollars (approx. US$5.65), an increase of 2000 per cent,” MISA said.

The sole fixed telephone network, run by the state-owned company TelOne; is in an appalling state of affairs with erratic coverage in urban areas and is virtually non-existent in rural areas.

There are three mobile telephone networks in the crisis gripped country - Econet Wireless, Telecel, and TelOne- which have failed to cope with the market demand for their services in Zimbabwe's hyperinflationary environment, added the statement.

The state of affairs in the telecommunications industry is a serious impediment to the right of the people of Zimbabwe to communicate; as well as their right to freedom of expression as guaranteed in Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, noted the statement.

Article 9 of the African Charter includes the ability to use and access tools of communication such as the internet, fixed telephones and mobile telephone networks by ordinary people, as emphasized by the World Summit on Information Societies (WSIS) held in Tunis, Tunisia 2005.
Citing the importance of telecommunications in rebuilding the tattered economy, MISA urged the providers not to unilaterally increase the tariffs.