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Data price hikes leave Zimbabwe subscribers fuming

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Zimbabwe , 06 May 2020
Zimbabwe’s two biggest mobile operators have raised their data tariffs.
Zimbabwe’s two biggest mobile operators have raised their data tariffs.

Zimbabwe’s two biggest mobile operators have raised their data tariffs triggering a backlash on social media from subscribers arguing that the new charges are out of sync with average earnings.

Econet and NetOne this week increased the price of social media bundles, and have also adjusted upwards their data subscription offerings.

Under the new tariffs, weekly Facebook and WhatsApp bundle offerings have been hiked from around ZWL23 to about ZWL30. The new tariffs are slightly above US$1on the official interbank exchange market and nearly US$0.50 on the parallel exchange market.

However, Econet has been criticised for hiking data tariffs for the monthly 25GB Private Wi-Fi bundle from ZWL400 to ZWL1300. NetOne has left its One-Fi offering of 25GB unchanged at ZWL400.

“At a time we are heavily relying on data to work from home, at a time students are supposed to access resources online and when they are expected to embrace e-learning, Potraz approves all this data price madness ... Surely it’s a dog-eat-dog situation,” said online media and public relations expert, Clever Mlambo.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe office is petitioning Econet Wireless to reduce its data tariffs to enable Zimbabweans to access information about the Coronavirus pandemic at a cheaper cost.

Zimbabwe has recorded a total of five deaths as a result of COVID-19 while total infections have risen to 34.

“Internet access is not a luxury but critical in the fight against Coronavirus,” said MISA Zimbabwe in its online petition, which has 329 signatures as of Wednesday 6 May 2020.

The organisation added: “The nation’s health and wellbeing, and, the right to access health facilities and relevant information to that effect are a core human right, more so, in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. “

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean central bank has intensified the shut-down of mobile money accounts allegedly being used for illegal currency dealings that have driven up the parallel exchange rate.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe last week issued a directive for EcoCash, run by Econet Wireless and One Money, controlled by NetOne, to freeze mobile money and merchant accounts of companies and individuals accused of involvement in street currency dealings.

“Financial Intelligence Unit (of the central bank) sussed out a list of suspected mobile money wallets from both EcoCash and OneMoney. The list of over a 100 wallets was then sent out to banks with the directive that they freeze the wallets and their linked bank accounts immediately,” reported Market Watch Zimbabwe.

According to the organisation, this has resulted in “a mild firming” of the local dollar.

“In the low volume market rates have this week, most certainly as a result of the RBZ’s actions, gone down to around 1 USD:45 ZWL from as high as 1 USD:50 ZWL.”

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