The Mozambican government has reportedly withdrawn its controversial proposal for a new tax on mobile phone users, news agency AIM reports. Transport and Communications Minister Paulo Zucula has been quoted as saying that it was not the clients of the country’s two mobile phone operators – Vodacom and mCel – who would be charged, but the operators themselves. According to AIM, this latest announcement contradicts a clause in last month’s government decree, which stated that every post-paid mobile phone subscriber would be liable to contribute MZN30 (USD0.83) a month to the mooted Transport and Communications Development Fund, whilst pre-paid customers would pay MZN5 a month.
According to Zucula, the decree has been rewritten so that Vodacom and M-Cel ‘may contribute’ to the fund, casting doubts over quite how compulsory the tax is. Zucula admitted that the earlier version of the decree, as published in Boletim da Republica newspaper, was sent to the printers before it had been corrected and approved by the relevant ministers. Zucula added that the decree does not impose any direct charges on the mobile phone operators, but seeks their ‘collaboration’. This breakdown in communication is the latest in a succession of gaffes and setbacks to affect the Mozambican wireless sector in recent months. The country is currently in the midst of a controversial SIM card registration scheme that was imposed by the government during the aftermath of a spate of rioting; the riots were reportedly coordinated by an SMS campaign. Both Vodacom and mCel have criticised the abrupt handling of the SIM card registration process, casting doubts over the projected registration deadline.