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Telkom has pulled the plug on Zimbabwe’s telecoms utility Tel*One for failing to honour a debt of US$18mn debt, throwing the country’s telecommunications network into chaos.
Tel*One has had its connectivity to and through South Africa terminated as it has not honoured its debt to Telkom.
Zimbabwe is also close to losing its membership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for non-payment of debts.
Tel*One incurred the Telkom debt after the South African utility helped to upgrade Zimbabwe’s fixed network between Musina and Harare a few years ago.
South Africa provided Zimbabwe with the latest terrestrial technology – synchronous digital hierarchy – which uses microwaves to make the system efficient.
The arrangement was that Tel*One, which was a net receiver of revenue from Telkom, would pay for the upgrade of its network by deducting its dues from the money going to Zimbabwe.
However, traffic from South Africa to Zimbabwe has dramatically dwindled, leaving Tel*One in a deficit with Telkom.
While South African callers can still dial directly to Harare, calls from that country to South Africa now have to be re-routed to Canada, through a company called Tele-Globe.
The rerouting explains the poor quality of calls between Zimbabwe and South Africa.