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Zimbabwe's TelOne service under threat

Zimbabwe's TelOne service under threat

Telco said to owe US$18 million to four companies.

Beleaguered state-owned Zimbabwe fixed network operator TelOne is under pressure to continue to roll out its services because of US$18 million owed to four companies, according to officials.

Key investors West Indian Ocean Cable and the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank of China) have threatened to rescind their support over the monies owed.

A report released this week by the parliamentary portfolio committee on information communication technology, postal and courier stated: "TelOne has been threatened with service disruption from critical foreign suppliers, who include Wiocc, TDM Mozambique, TCF and China-EximBank, who are owed $18 million."

Committee chairman Charlton Hwende confirmed the statement.

The Exim Bank of China funded TelOne's national upgrading system and exchanges as part of the telco's US$98 million national Broadband Backbone (NBB) project. There is now US$500 000 owing in interest and repayment.

The debt is threatening the company's plans to initiate the long-overdue phase two of NBB said Hwende.

He referred to the report and added that there is widespread concern that TelOne's internet service could be disrupted.

According to the report: "Such a disruption will have a damning effect on the country's communications systems, national security, Teeline's reputation and the effect on the economy at large cannot be overemphasised."

It added that government debtors of US$98 million contribute 58% of the company net debtors' book. The government owes TelOne US$73 million, while parastatals owe US$25 million.

Hwende said a delay in settling the debt and possible disruption to the company's services would incur a loss of over US$20 million

TelOne is earmarked for privatisation in the next five months and the report recommends it be bailed out.

Company spokesperson Melody Harry could not offer more detail and said she had not yet read the parliamentary report.

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