The Ministry of ICT Postal and Courier Services is quizzing its regulatory arm, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, Potraz over granting Liquid Telecom a concessionary 10-year payment plan without its knowledge.
The Herald Business understands that sometime this year Potraz granted Liquid Telecom a 10-year concessionary payment plan to renew its operating license against the dictates of the Postal and Telecommunications Act Cap 12:05 as read with the Postal and Telecommunications Licensing and Certification Regulations.
The law states that all initial license fees and renewal license fees must be paid before or at the time that the license is issued or renewed. Liquid is the biggest player in IP provision in Zimbabwe at the moment.
As a result, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Supa Mandiwanzira, in a letter to Potraz, registered Government’s “grave reservations” over the payment plan.
“The Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services understands that Potraz is currently considering authorizing a framework for license 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 10-year payment plan for their license renewal,” Minister Mandiwanzira said.
“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,” he said.
Minister Mandiwanzira said Government is currently grappling with the circumstances of a similar arrangement, granted to Telecel Zimbabwe, the terms of which allowed for the payment of their mobile network operator licence in instalments over seven years.
“Cabinet has frowned on the logic that informed the acceptance of such unprecedented terms, particularly having considered that the ICT industry is currently the most lucrative industry in Zimbabwe. We therefore advise the board to take caution in finalising on the matter,” said Minister Mandiwanzira.
In an letter dated June 10, 2016, seemingly to correct the situation, Potraz acting director general Cecilia Nyamutswa told Liquid Telecoms that renewal fees are payable in advance before the licence is issued.
“We refer to previous correspondences on this matter and advise that the renewal fees are payable in advance before the licence is issued. We therefore advise that payment should be made in advance according to the law and to Regulatory circular No. 1 of 2016. We trust that this clears any expectations of a different arrangement with the authority,” Ms Nyamutswa said.
In the circular accompanying the letter, Ms Nymautswa said the authority has been receiving requests to grant licensees permission to pay license fees by instalments on renewal of their licences.
“No payment plan will be agreed to by the authority and all operators are required to comply with the law. Accordingly, any operator whose license has already fallen due for renewal or will fall due for renewal after date of this circular will pay license fees in line with the law. All operators who may still be owing any such fees to the authority should ensure that the fees are fully paid up immediately,” said Ms Nyamutswa.