President Mnangagwa misled world, Starlink not yet licenced 

“This is confusing because we at POTRAZ are still deliberating on Starlink”

Source: President Mnangagwa misled world, Starlink not yet licenced – News Hub Zimbabwe

Annahstacia Ndlovu

Bulawayo—President Emmerson Mnangagwa approved a Starlink licence to operate in Zimbabwe even though the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ) is still deliberating on the American company’s application, NewsHub has been told.

The move is seen as a deliberate plot by the president to manipulate the licensing of Starlink so as to benefit Wicknell Chivayo, his protégé who Mnangagwa said will be the sole distributor of the satellite services provider’s products in Zimbabwe.

On Saturday, Mnangagwa used his X account to announce his purported approval of the Starlink deal and said Chavayo’s IMC Communications had been given the monopoly to partner with it.

“I’m pleased to announce that I have approved the licensing of Starlink by POTRAZ to provide advanced internet and related digital processing services in Zimbabwe through its sole and exclusive partner, IMC Communications (Pvt) Ltd,” wrote Mnangagwa.

Starlink is owned by Space X—a space transportation company—that is run by billionaire Elon Musk who is also the proprietor of electric car company, Tesla, Neuralink, The Boring Company and X Corp and is considered the richest person in the world.

Elon Musk (https://www.thomasnet.com/insights/elon-musk-companies/)

“The entry by Starlink in the digital space in Zimbabwe is expected to result in the deployment of high speed, low cost LEO (Low Earth Orbit) internet infrastructure throughout Zimbabwe and particularly in rural areas,” added Mnangagwa in X post.

But POTRAZ sources expressed surprise at the announcement by Mnangagwa.

“We have learnt that there is a message circulating on social media that purports to be coming from the president (Mnangagwa) on his approval of the Starlink licence. This is confusing because we at POTRAZ are still deliberating on Starlink,” said one source.

“Actually, the technical team scheduled a meeting for tomorrow (Monday) long back. We asked Starlink to provide us with key information and we will be looking at what they have submitted so as to make a decision on its licensing,” added the source.

Starlink is currently officially offered in various African nations that Nigeria, Mozambique, Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda and Benin.

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

After the meeting by the technical committee, said another senior employee who met with NewsHub, the POTRAZ board would then meet to deliberate on the recommendations of the former.

“This (application) is highly technical and requires meticulous analysis. We need to be confident that Starlink has given us all the key information and data before we can make a decision. That is why it is taking long to make a decision,” said the second source.

Starlink lodged its application with the Zimbabwean authorities in April and the POTRAZ sources concurred it may take a few weeks or even months to come up with an informed decision on the issue.

The sources queried why the announcement was coming from the president, instead of the ICT minister, Tatenda Mavetera.

They also said the Postal and Telecommunications Act had no provisions for monopoly in the provision of services.

Section 3(h) of the Act provides that one of the functions of POTRAZ is to “maintain and promote effective competition between persons engaged in the provision of postal and telecommunication services and any activities connected therewith.”

Besides the fact that President Mnangagwa leapfrogged his ICT minister, the sources said, it was “unusual” for the head of state to make the announcement through a social media message.

“There is need to make the approval through a formal platform and social media is not recognised in government as a formal platform. You would expect the announcement to be made through a presidential decree or SI (statutory instrument) that is properly gazetted but that is not the case.

“In any case, the norm is that before a ministry or the president establishes an SI or the president gives an order, we, as the technical people, ought to be extensively consulted for our expert input,” said one of the sources.

Tongues have been wagging of late over Chivayo’s closeness to President Mnangagwa.

Wicknell Chivayo at ZITF

The announcement by the president came a few days after Chivayo visited Mnangagwa’s Precabe farm in Kwekwe.

Previously, Chivayo overshadowed cabinet ministers and senior government officials at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair where he featured prominently in receiving Kenyan President, William Ruto, who officiated at the expo. Z

Fadzai Mahere, a lawyer, accused Mnangagwa of undue interference with POTRAZ while Effort Ncube, a civic rights activist, said it was “strange” that the president was the one who made the announcement.

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