POTRAZ under fire for licence renewal payment plans

16 Jun 2016

The government of Zimbabwe has stepped in to force the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) to withdraw plans to allow telcos to renew their licences using long-term annual payment plans. According to a report from local newspaper The Herald, wholesale carrier Liquid Telecom – part of the Econet Wireless group – was offered a concessionary ten-year instalment plan to pay for its licence renewal, which the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services (MICTPCS) says contravenes the country’s Postal and Telecommunications Act.

ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira has written to POTRAZ to express his disapproval for the payment plan. He said: ‘The MICTPCS understands that POTRAZ is currently considering authorising a framework for licence renewal payments that gives operators access to flexible payment terms. It has also come to our attention that, in anticipation of the board’s approval, POTRAZ management has already entered into an agreement with another operator under a concessionary ten-year payment plan for their licence renewal. Mandiwanzira then added: ‘We wish to alert you to the Ministry’s grave reservations of such considerations and actions. We consider such an approach unacceptable given the need to urgently support central Government efforts to raise money for the Treasury.’

The Herald says that POTRAZ acting director general Cecilia Nyamutswa has now written to Liquid Telecom to say: ‘We refer to previous correspondences on this matter and advise that the renewal fees are payable in advance before the licence is issued … We trust that this clears any expectations of a different arrangement with the authority.’

POTRAZ had previously been criticised by the government for offering struggling mobile operator Telecel a seven-year plan of annual instalments to pay off its USD137.5 million licence renewal fee in 2013. The government said in 2015 that the regulator had no authority to offer such payment plans to telcos.