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Ed snubs Mavetera

ED snubs Mavetera


PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has snubbed the Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services (ICT) minister Tatenda Mavetera after he announced that he has approved the licensing of Starlink to provide internet services without discussions with the ICT ministry and the telecoms regulator, it has been learnt.

On Saturday last week, Mnangagwa announced through a statement that he had given approval to SpaceX to introduce its Starlink internet services in Zimbabwe in partnership with controversial businessman Wicknell Chivayo’s IMC Communications.

ZANU PF party and government officials are not happy with Mnangagwa’s relationship with Chivayo after the controversial dealer used the presidential chopper to travel to Bikita for ZCC Easter service and hosted him at his Precabe Farm in Kwekwe last weekend.

Both officials from ICT and Postal & Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) were shocked with the announcement.

“As the regulator we were still working on the modalities of regulating Starlink. We were also looking at ways to protect consumer data and how to tax them.

“The application came in March and we were still looking at it, so yes, we were surprised like anyone else when the President made his Saturday pronouncement. Honestly, no one saw it coming,” Potraz official said.

ICT, Postal and Courier Services minister Tatenda Mavetera was not picking calls when contacted for comment.

However, she told The Sunday Mail that Potraz is yet to come up with modalities for the operation of the internet company.

“We are soon going to announce the technical modalities together with Potraz. Already, there has been a pronouncement that has been made by the President and this will ensure that no one and no place is left behind,” she said.

Potraz director-general Gift Machengete also told the same publication that the regulators were still consulting on the licensing of Starlink, exposing the communication breakdown between his office and the president.

Information technology expert Leonard Sengere expressed concern that the President was muddying himself in the Starlink deal.

“There are aspects of how Starlink got approved that are concerning. I might be alone on this one but to hear the President say, ‘I approved’ the licensing of Starlink sounds a little weird,” he said.

“You might need to educate me on this one but shouldn’t Potraz have full authority on such decisions? What should happen when the telecoms experts at Potraz advocate some action and the President disapproves? That’s probably answered somewhere but I believe we shouldn’t need the President’s approval on matters like these but I sure am glad we got it.

“Then there is the fact that Starlink only gets to come here through a partnership with IMC Communications. We don’t know just how Starlink ended up partnering with IMC. Were they required to find a local partner and they settled on IMC or were they told they had to partner IMC to get the licence?”

The Starlink approval comes amid a government crackdown on unregistered users smuggling Starlink kits from neighbouring countries like Zambia.

Starlink services are currently officially being offered in eight African countries — Nigeria, Benin, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi and Eswatini.

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