Zimbabwe Government Goes After The Internet
Harare, Zimbabwe, 19 September 2009
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), has issued a public statement notifying the country that there will be no more licences issued for Internet Access Service Providers in Zimbabwe.
The Authority, which is supposed to be under Nelson Chamisa, has been snatched back by Robert Mugabe and given to Nicholas Goche of ZANU PF.
What the government is trying to do here is to ensure that the small number of ISPs in Zimbabwe are put in a pen and then they will be tightly controlled.
Already, there is a law that requires ISPs to spy on their customers' emails and to hand these over to government at a moment's notice. Failure to put in the spying equipment means that the ISP could lose their licence.
Hence, as the noose tightens around the ISPs currently operating, you will see a lot of them fall by the wayside.
The end result that Mugabe and his men would like to see would be a situation where only one big government-owned Internet Service Provider is left.
That way, they are able to spy to their hearts' content.
Potraz says that it is stopping all licencing because the geographic and population size of Zimbabwe does not allow for more players.
Who are they to decide? Let the market decide that. If there is saturation, you will see mergers, acquisitions and those too hopeless falling by the wayside completely.
So this argument holds no water.
The other excuse is that licencing too many players will result in an "unnecessary duplication of infrastructure."
So why not do what the South Africans did with their cellphone companies. Down there, companies are compelled to allow competitors to use their base stations. Yet that has had no impact on the delivery of quality service.
In fact, considering that Zimbabwe was at one time so advanced that we got television services before South Africa had any, it is a shame that the government wants to retard progress simply because it is bent on ensuring that it stays in power forever.
This development is the first indication that the government has realised that it can not control the Internet, where views are aired freely.