Zimbabwe’s TelOne struggling to cope with debt burden

Chalton Hwende

Zimbabwe’s state-owned fixed line operator TelOne could be threatened with service disruption due to debts of USD18 million.

News Day reports that the telco owes a total of USD18 million to four key foreign suppliers: West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC), TDM Mozambique, TCF and China-EximBank.

Charlton Hwende of the government’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for ICT is quoted as saying: ‘This arrear obligation is affecting plans for Phase Two of the National Broadband Project, which is set to expand and upgrade TelOne’s network. Any disruptions of internet service by TelOne will have a catastrophic impact … on the country’s communications systems, national security and TelOne’s reputation, and the effect on the economy at large cannot be overemphasised.’

Hwende adds that TelOne is still crippled by legacy loans of USD380 million which were inherited from its predecessor, the Zimbabwe Post and Telecommunications Corporation (ZPTC). He also says that government and parastatal offices owe the telco USD98 million. ‘Business operations are being seriously threatened as a result of resultant liquidity problems … Company profitability is compromised. TelOne would approach breaking even without these costs,’ he stated.