Finally after a long wait, TelOne is now set to receive a $98,6 million facility from the Export Import Bank of China after the National Assembly approved the deal on Tuesday last week.
The major delay however besides the bureaucratic process was fear by both the Chinese and Parly as they both may have felt that Telone was not in a position to service the loan, we have learned.
The loan facility is meant to finance TelOne’s network and broadband access project which was negotiated with China’s Exim Bank last year.
By Shingie Levison Muringi
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the House that the loan will cover Phase Two of TelOne fibre project after the utility completed the first phase to the tune of the $18 million that was mobilized by both TelOne and Government.
He said the tenure of the loan was 20 years while the loan had a grace period of five years with the interest rate pegged at 2 percent per annum.
“The project will transform TelOne and enhance its competitiveness and cash flow position,” said Minister Chinamasa.
He said the project would enhance data, voice and video service for the fixed telephone service provider.
Although legislators supported the loan, they expressed mixed views on the utilization of the facility with some expressing reservations on its transparency while others said it would turn around TelOne.
Tafara/Mabvuku MP Mr James Maridadi (MDC-T) said given reports of misappropriation of previous loan facility at NetOne, the project could be a feeding trough for management and Government Ministers superintending such State entities.
Mr Maridadi said given social media reports that a Government minister demanded kickbacks to one of suppliers for NetOne, he feared that approving the loan might perpetuate the rot at State entities.
But Minister Chinamasa said there was no relationship between allegations of corruption Mr Maridadi was making against a Government minister in respect of NetOne with the present loan.
Chegutu West MP Cde Dexter Nduna (Zanu-PF) hailed the Government for improving infrastructure but emphasised the need to take resources where the population is like in the rural areas.
Binga South MP Mr Gabbuza Joel Gabbuza (MDC-T) cautioned Government against allowing supply by foreign firms of outdated equipment, which would result in Zimbabwe taking delivery of obsolete machinery.
He said there was need to avoid duplication of roles by telecommunications service providers as all of them were laying fibre optic running parallel to each other.
“Another issue is that the fibre optic is being laid close to the roads and that does not consider future expansion of roads,” said Mr Gabbuza.
Kuwadzana East MP Mr Nelson Chamisa complained that legislators had been furnished with the loan agreement late hence there was little time to study it and contribute meaningfully.
He bemoaned the tendency by Government to borrow.
“We have now become professional borrowers. We have developed an industry of borrowing,” said Mr Chamisa.
Buhera South MP Cde Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu-PF) implored Government to consider installing such infrastructure in rural areas and stop concentrating in urban areas.
However TeOlne has been making serious initiatives after re-Branding exercise which makes them competitive including the TelOne hotspot initiatives, mulling of the the Introduction of pre-paid Billing and the digitization process which moves them from being a fixed operator to a converged one.