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Swaziland MPs call for liberalisation of fibre optic infrastructure

Swaziland MPs call for liberalisation of fibre optic infrastructure

Members of Swaziland's Parliament have bemoaned the high cost of the country's communication and say that only South Sudan is more expensive. They are lobbying for an amendment of Section 53 of the country's Electronic Communications Act of 2013 in order to ensure more accessible and affordable internet.

MP Patrick Pha Motsa said the country's communications sector is lagging behind those of other southern African countries. He identified inconsistencies in the management of the country's backbone infrastructure and international gateway, and said the fact that these are not yet fully under control of the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) is not in line with the country's ICT policy, investor roadmap and international best practices.

"It has become important to allow Swaziland's communication sector to grow as it would also result to growth in other sectors including agriculture and business," Motsa said.

MP Mhlume Magagula said a key component of the amendment would allow telecoms operators and other private industry players to procure resources from any seller instead of being legally obliged to engage exclusively with the SPTC.

In response, Swaziland's minister for ICT, Dumisani Ndlangamandla, said his ministry would carry out extensive consultation with stakeholders before submitting an amendment to change the clause. He subsequently asked for 90 days, but this was rejected as MPs sought to secure a 14-day turnaround.

The Minister of Labor and Social Security, Winnie Magagula warned MPs to not allow liberalisation of the national fibre optic infrastructure and the international traffic gateway as this would threaten Swaziland's national security.

Magagula said, "The world has reached a level where one can go anywhere and at any time via the internet. This gateway should not be open to the private sector as it would be difficult for the government to monitor communications. This could stimulate money laundering and finance terrorism."