“We Will Arrest You If Found Using Starlink In Zimbabwe”: Machengete

The Postal Regulatory Authority Of Zimbabwe (Ptraz) has said it will not hesitate to arrest anyone found using Starlink before formalities are done and finalised.

This was said by Potraz Director General Dr Gift Kalisto Machengete during official opening of African Telecommunication Union ICT Day in Harare yesterday.

Dr Machengete said the usage of proliferating Starlink satellites in Zimbabwe is illegal and will get the users arrested if caught.

Speaking to TechnoMag on the sidelines of the event, Dr Machengete said that they will not hesitate to get the would be user arrested as they will be doing this out of our Zimbabwean law.

“We will not hesitate to arrest anyone found using Starlink products and services here in Zimbabwe. As the regulator, we want them to follow the prerequisites of the law laid down so that they start operating legally. As for now, they have not yet regularised, so no one should be seen using it’s products and services,” said Dr Machengete.

Dr Machengete argued that Starlink is not yet licensed to start operations in Zimbabwe. He however, noted that they have already communicated with them in terms of modalities and frequency allocation, but they are yet to respond on the actual packages they need so that they re properly billed for the service.

He added that Starlink has not yet clarified whether they will be a converged licensed operator or a Vsat service provider, hence its not also clear how much licensing fee they will be asked to pay for their operations in Zimbabwe.

Dr Machengete went on to elaborate why Potraz will have the power to arrest users who in this case might not need a license to do so.

“The user will be guilty of running an unauthorized service in the country with gadgets that have not yet been assigned frequency in that particular country, so it’s criminal.”

The response comes at a time when most Zimbabweans are already roaming on the service, pending the official licensing of the service provider, as talks of having Starlink have taken longer, mainly because Starlink have not been forthcoming since their inquiry.

Potraz blamed Starlink for playing hard ball and taking time to conclude the deal.
“We came and made inquiries and we told them what we expect of them and since then, they have gone quite,” said Dr Machengete.

The current licencing frame work is however, likely to call for millions of dollars against Starlink, and some analysts have postulated that they are not happy to pay such huge fees for licensing hence the delays to complete the deal.

Sources close to the developments also stated that government would also want to have clear taxing modalities against Starlink, and If these are not clearly laid out, it will be difficult to license them as other local service providers are also being taxed .

Another expert close to the ongoings said it is important to know if Starlink would accept equivalent local RTGS currency, to cater for the rural masses who would not have access to the USD in their quest for connectivity, as this unconnected population is key to the government for inclusivity.

“Given all these premeditated conditions, pointers are that the deal is still far from being finalised,” said the source.

The international service provider is currently prioritising countries with flexible operating environment, with regional countries like Mozambique, Zambia and Nigeria among others already running the service.

Starlink is mainly operating low hanging orbit satellites that move around the space, connecting millions on earth via their wireless gadgets from anywhere across the world, and Zimbabwe is one of the region covered with a reasonable amount of satellites.

Sheltryn Parangira

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