INTERNET SHUTDOWN IN ZIMBABWE
The benighted mess that is the remnants of Zimbabwe’s economy has slid further towards complete disintegration with the news that what limited Internet traffic there was in, and to and from, the country has all but come to a complete standstill after Intelsat cut access to its satellite bandwidth because of unpaid bills.
TelOne is controlled by the Mugabe government and owns the country’s principal satellite link. However it owes US$700,000 in unpaid fees and after negotiations that led nowhere, Intelsat has pulled the plug, plunging Zimbabwe further into the mire.
Inflation in Zimbabwe is running at 1,200 per cent (the highest anywhere on earth), unemployment is conservatively estimated to be 75 per cent, there are shortages of food, fuel and housing, the national currency is worthless and access to foreign reserves is practically non-existent after overseas companies withdrew their support and cash.
On it’s website (yes, you can go and have a look) the Zimbabwe Internet Services Providers Association (ZISPA) says that with the severing of the Intelsat link the country’s access to the Internet “is in a state of almost total collapse.”
ZISPA says it will approach the government in an effort to get it to pay its debt to Intelsat so that connections can be re-instated, but it will have to tread carefully with a regime that says the economic ills the nation has been suffering for so long are not the result of failed government policies and maladministration but are being caused by a concerted campaign of economic sabotage being carried out by the West in general and Britain in particular.
Meanwhile, Phil Chingwaru, a spokesman for TelOne, says “We have approached the reserve bank of Zimbabwe for foreign currency and they are working on that but there will be big delays in Internet access because of the cut-off by Intelsat.”
In an effort to ensure the whole sorry process doesn’t repeat itself again the next time a bill falls due, TelOne has asked the government for permission to charge the few of Zimbabwe’s big companies that are still operating for their Internet access in hard currencies including the US dollar, the Euro and the reviled British pound. Ah, pragmatism, it’s a wonderful thing.
And, in another strategy to generate foreign currency, TelOne is branching out into farming. The company is contracting tobacco and cotton farmers to produce crops that will go for export overseas. Phil Chingwaru says the company should realise somewhere in the region of US$12 million from the sale of its tobacco crop. Don’t tell Mr. Mugabe.