Last week the government passed Statutory Instrument 185 which compels businesses to show both the USD and Zimbabwean Dollar Prices of goods and services at the prevailing “official rate”. Some clever organisations, especially in the Telecoms industry, have taken advantage of this to reintroduce their old USD prices and then applied the current prevailing official rates with eye-brow raising results. Now it seems they did so with the blessing of POTRAZ the organisation tasked with regulating the industry.

ZOL were the first to take advantage of this as far as we are aware. The company reintroduced their 2017 USD prices and simply applied the official bank rate to those resulting in pretty steep hikes. Depending on what happens in today’s auction the company might hike their prices further. During this era the bond and RTGS were already worth about half making ZOL’s choice even more puzzling.

Telecel has now followed suit and here are their new tariffs:

ServiceUSD $ZWL $ZWL $
Telecel to Telecel0.0594.254/min0.071/sec
Telecel to other networks0.0574.109/min0.068/sec
Data (MB)0.0120.836

Get ready for weekly tariff adjustments

“The ZWL denominated tariffs shall be reviewed from time to time in line with the auction determined exchange rate movements, as and when necessary, depending on the magnitude of the movements,”

POTRAZ’s statement on the issue

A bridge too far

One thing we as customers find galling about these adjustments is that businesses are sometimes reverting back to 2017/USD prices and yet they are not adjusting people’s incomes the same way. On average people earn less than half what they were earning in 2017 for example. It’s worse for some sectors such as civil servants. The result is that some of these price hikes will not bring in the dough that telecom companies are yearning for.

In fact they are likely to result in companies losing money as people start to prioritise basics such as food and shelter as incomes fall further due to the lockdown. Even businesses which have primarily been willing to pay the steep internet costs with people now working from home are also likely to cut back as they face falling demand and scale back operations due lack of raw materials and other factors brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.