Mnangagwa’s Surprise Approval of Starlink Licensing Catches ICT Ministry and Regulator Off Guard

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HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s unexpected announcement approving Starlink’s licensing to provide internet services in Zimbabwe has taken the Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services (ICT) ministry and the telecoms regulator by surprise.

Both entities were unaware of the deal’s approval prior to the president’s statement.

Mnangagwa revealed last Saturday that he had granted SpaceX permission to launch its Starlink internet services in Zimbabwe, in partnership with Wicknell Chivayo’s IMC Communications.

This partnership underscores the president’s close relationship with the controversial dealer, evidenced by their recent shared presidential chopper ride to Bikita for the ZCC Easter service and Chivayo’s visit to Mnangagwa’s Precabe Farm in Kwekwe.

Officials from the ICT ministry and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) informed NewsDay that they were still reviewing Starlink’s application when the president made the announcement.

ICT, Postal and Courier Services Minister Tatenda Mavetera told The Sunday Mail that Potraz had not yet finalized the operational modalities for the internet company.

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

Potraz Director-General Gift Machengete also commented in the same publication, stating that the regulator was still consulting on Starlink’s licensing. His remarks highlighted a communication breakdown between his office and the presidency regarding the approval process.