Zimbabwe’s mobile network firms have hiked data tariffs in response to a tariff increase by the country’s telecoms regulator, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz).
Potraz last week set floor prices for voice and data bundled services, including promotional packages.
A floor price is a minimum effective tariff chargeable per minute voice calls and megabyte of data.
Potraz set US12 cents as charge for traditional voice calls and US2 cents per megabyte data.
Potraz said in set the floor prices, they were aimed at “addressing the apparent under-pricing of voice and data services that was characteristic of data bundles and promotions that were being offered by promoters”.
Before the increase, US$1 would buy 250MB of data, but now, 300MB of data cost US$10.
Information Communication Telecommunications minister Supa Mandiwanzira said he was out of office.
“#DataCost. Seen your Qs[questions]. I’m on leave until January 30 and out of the country since Boxing Day. On return to work, I will get to the bottom of it,” he wrote on his Twitter handle.
Lawyer Alex Magaisa mockingly wrote on his Twitter handle that: “11 January 2017 is the day when #Zimbabwe WhatsApp Group administrators face redundancy. #DataMustFall.”
Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo rapped the telecoms regulator’s move.
“Use of overpricing, instead of technology, to curb Internet access or manage social media is primitive elitism and promotes
underdevelopment,” he said.
The increase in data tariffs is seen as away of curtailing social media usage, which in the last year gave President Robert Mugabe’s administration a headache as it failed to contain what the authorities termed as “abuse” of the social media.
Despite threats, there has been an avalanche of criticism and ridicule of Mugabe, who turns 93 on 21 February, on social media.
A video of the nonagenarian struggling to shovel soil during a recent tree planting ceremony has gone viral. Unimpressed, Mugabe’s wife Grace is seen taking the shovel from the ageing president to complete the job. Other officials join in using their bare hands.
In December Mugabe’s Zanu PF party endorsed him as its presidential candidate for elections in 2018.