ED ‘dribbles’ ICT ministry, Potraz in Starlink deal

Source: ED ‘dribbles’ ICT ministry, Potraz in Starlink deal -Newsday Zimbabwe

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement that he has approved the licensing of Starlink to provide internet services came as shock to the Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services  (ICT) ministry and the telecoms regulator which had no prior knowledge of the approval of the deal, it has emerged.

Mnangagwa announced through a statement on Saturday last week that he had given approval to SpaceX to introduce its Starlink internet services in Zimbabwe in partnership with Wicknell Chivayo’s IMC Communications.



The president has developed a strong bond with the controversial dealer Chivayo — sharing a presidential chopper travelling to Bikita for ZCC Easter service and hosting him at his Precabe Farm in Kwekwe last weekend.

Officials from the ICT ministry and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz)  told NewsDay that they were still seized with “reviewing Starlink’s application when the announcement came”.

“As the regulator we were still working on the modalities of regulating Starlink. We were also looking at ways to protect consumer data and how to tax them.

“The application came in March and we were still looking at it, so yes, we were surprised like anyone else when the President made his Saturday pronouncement. Honestly, no one saw it coming,” said an official from Potraz.



ICT, Postal and Courier Services minister Tatenda Mavetera was not picking calls when NewsDay called yesterday.

However, she told The Sunday Mail that Potraz  is yet to come up with modalities for the operation of the internet company.

“We are soon going to announce the technical modalities together with Potraz. Already, there has been a pronouncement that has been made by the President and this will ensure that no one and no place is left behind,” she said.



Potraz director-general Gift Machengete also told the same publication that the regulators was still consulting on the licensing of Starlink, exposing the communication breakdown between his office and the presidency.

Information technology expert Leonard Sengere expressed concern that the President was muddying himself in the Starlink deal.

“There are aspects of how Starlink got approved that are concerning. I might be alone on this one but to hear the President say, ‘I approved’ the licensing of Starlink sounds a little weird,” he said.

“You might need to educate me on this one but shouldn’t Potraz have full authority on such decisions? What should happen when the telecoms experts at Potraz advocate some action and the President disapproves? That’s probably answered somewhere but I believe we shouldn’t need the President’s approval on matters like these but I sure am glad we got it.

“Then there is the fact that Starlink only gets to come here through a partnership with IMC Communications. We don’t know just how Starlink ended up partnering IMC. Were they required to find a local partner and they settled on IMC or were they told they had to partner IMC to get the licence?”

The Starlink approval comes amid a government crackdown on unregistered users smuggling Starlink kits from neighbouring countries like Zambia.

Starlink services are currently officially being offered in eight African countries — Nigeria, Benin, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi and Eswatini.

Last month, Cameroon ordered the seizure of Starlink equipment at the country’s ports of entry as the provider was not licensed.