Public telephone provider TelOne should involve other players in the East Africa Submarine Cable Network project for it to raise the required foreign currency, the Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications has said. Committee chairperson Leo Mugabe said this last Monday while responding to remarks by TelOne technical director Hampton Mhlanga on the overview of the 2007 National Budget.

"Why are you doing it on your own? Why are you not involving other players?" he asked. Mhlanga had told the committee that TelOne required at least US$18.5 million to complete the project to link the country with the rest of the world via optic fibre.

He said TelOne had so far invested US$5 million in the construction of an underground cable from Mthunzini (formerly Durban) in South Africa to Sudan where it would link up with Asia and Europe.

Mhlanga revealed that TelOne was paying the US$5 million it was contributing towards construction of the undersea cable through instalments and was expected to have paid the full amount by the end of next year. He said by December this year, the company was required to pay at least US$155 000 while in February next year it would have to pay US$750 000, in May next year US$ 500 000 and the remainder by the end of the year.

The company would require an additional US$13.5 million to construct a cable from Harare to Beira through Mutare where it would connect with the undersea cable. It would also need to construct cables to link the country with neighbouring countries such as Botswana and Zambia as well as Harare and other major cities and towns in the country.

Mugabe castigated TelOne’s management for lacking innovation, saying the company was failing to generate revenue when it had all the capacity to do so. "You have the capacity to generate the money but you are not doing so. Why you are not doing so, we don't know," he said. This last comment appears rather unfair on TelOne as the current state of the Zimbabwean economy is hardly conducive to generating sufficient revenue for investment.

The Herald