Foreign Currency Billing System Deprives many Zimbabwe people of phone access


The government of Zimbabwe has granted cell phone networks permission to bill subscribers in foreign currency. Subscribers across the three networks Telecel, Econet Wireless and Net One will be paying US$0.28 cents per minute and US$0.26 cents per minute for pre-paid and contract lines, respectively.

Telecom operators' tariffs are determined in close consultation with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in line with the internationally recognised models, approved by the International Telecommunications Union.

This week Net One contract line subscribers received instructions to make due payments and warnings of being switched off after accumulating bills ranging between US$50 and US$20,000 within two weeks. Because of late notification of change in payment terms for users, some Net One subscribers accumulated high bills; now more than 20,000 Net One contract line subscribers are likely to be beleaguered by the introduction of the foreign currency billing system in effect since 1 January 2009.

In a press release MISA-Zimbabwe noted the resultant easing of network congestion for the subscribers and the possibility of the cellular networks expanding their capacity and improving efficiency, it believess that the use of cellular phones is now out of reach for the ordinary Zimbabwean person. More than 80 percent of Zimbabwe's citizens live in abject poverty, ravaged by hunger, economic collapse, HIV-AIDS and recently, cholera, which has killed over 2000 people. Half of Zimbabwe's population - five million people - needs food assistance.