Yesterday, Minister of ICT Supa Mandiwanzira made some rather remarkable claims when he appeared before the parliamantery Portfolio Committee on ICT. The committee was chaired by former Minister of ICT and MDC Vice President Nelson Chamisa.
Giving evidence, Mandiwanzira claimed that Econet did not pay the full $137 million for the licence saying that taxpayers actually contributed $60 million. Just before Econet paid the license fee in 2013, it was owed $60 million dollars by Telecel and Netone. Mandiwanzira claimed that Econet was done a huge favour by the government because very few companies were actually getting money which was owed to them by parastatal’s. But in Econet’s case, the government made an effort to pay for the parastatals and offset their debt against Econet.
Excerpts of his statements read:
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I would like to say that is actually a lie that Econet paid its licence in full. It’s misrepresentation that has been repeated over and over again to make it a fact but I would like to say that today it actually is not a fact.
…What Econet did was that it negotiated with Government that “Oh, by the way, as we are renewing our licence we are owed money by NetOne and we are also owed money by TelOne. Can you as Government take over those loans, those amounts which were accumulated in their day to day operations between their business entities.” They then asked the Government to take over that liability and pay to POTRAZ the licence fee. That is the truth of the matter. $60 million was paid by the people of Zimbabwe, not by Econet.
…Now I will ask members of the committee who are seated here how many companies are owed money by parastatals in this country? How many businesses who do business with Government or parastatals are owed huge amounts of money and the Treasury has not taken over those amounts? Many companies. But in this particular case, Econet had the advantage of having its $60 million debt taken over by Government, and Government took from the people of Zimbabwe through the taxes they pay, $60 million to pay to POTRAZ as part of the licence fee for Econet.