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Zimbabwe's TelOne owed $200mn

fixedlinetelone

TelOne, the state run and only fixed-line company in Zimbabwe, says it is owed $200 million in unpaid bills.

Hampton Mhlanga, the TelOne acting managing director, told a Zimbabwean parliamentary portfolio committee that the company has a heavy debtors balance owing to “non-payment of services consumed by both corporate and residential” customers.

Mhlanga went on to say that the continued rise in the cost of living in Zimbabwe and the high unemployment rate have been factors worsening chances of collecting revenue.

“The continued rise in the cost of living and high unemployment rate has contributed to the increase in defaulters which resulted in the ballooning of the total amount owed by customers to $211 357 476 by the end of March 2012,” said Mhlanga.

Mhlanga further told the portfolio committee on media, information and communication that stiff competition from mobile companies and other telecommunications players offering Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls were weighing down heavily on the company’s profitability and revenue generation prospects.

However, an analyst has said that there is also a high rate of inter-indebtedness among Zimbabwean ministries; something which the country’s finance minister Tendai Biti has said is a big problem.

“It will not be surprising if that $200 million is heavily concentrated among government departments and other ministries,” the analyst who refused to be named said.

“This is one of the major problems affecting government operations,” the analyst continued.

TelOne is one of several state run parastatals - including the government owned mobile network operator NetOne - that has been earmarked for privatisation by Gorden Moyo, the country’s parastatals minister.

However, efforts to privatise the ailing parastatals have not made meaningful headway, as experts say some officials are stalling the commercialisation efforts.

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