27 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Potraz Clears Makandiwa

Photo: Facebook/Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa
Zimbabwe famous Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa.

THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe has cleared United Family International Church leader Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa for possible breach of the Posts and Telecommunication Act.

The prophet was under probe by the telecommunication regulatory authority for allegedly operating a cellular phone airtime recharge service without lawful authority.

In an interview yesterday, Potraz director general Engineer Charles Sibanda, said their investigations did not establish any breach of the telecommunication legal statutes.

"We checked and found that it was something that did not require us as the telecommunication regulatory authority to intervene. There was no issue of telecommunication's interest," said Eng Sibanda.

"He (Prophet Makandiwa) might be in breach of other legal statutes where other authorities might have an interest in, but certainly not what falls within our jurisdiction."

In their investigation, Potraz engineers wanted to establish whether Prophet Makandiwa was not riding on other networks when he introduced the recharge cards. Preliminary indication had suggested that UFIC was running a virtual network, which is provision of telecommunication services riding on other networks.

This would require prior permission from the network and Potraz.

But Eng Sibanda said their investigations established that UFIC were paying for the transmission of the messages they were making to a subscriber.

"We do not regulate content, except if it is offensive like harassment. What they were doing is called value added service, which in our view, was a business-like commercial exercise but they would pay for transmission to the networks they would have used," he said.

Eng Sibanda said their investigation showed that a subscriber would buy a scratch card and send a number on it to Prophet Makandiwa's number or his agent. Upon receipt, Prophet Makandiwa would confirm whether the number originated from him. If so, he would transmit pre-recorded sermons or messages to that number.

"Those that might have an interest in the case might want to determine whether a sermon is worth US$3 or whether receiving the Holy Spirit is worth US$3 that was being charged. That is not a telecommunication matter, unless if they were not paying for the transmission," said Eng Sibanda.

"He was using all networks, selling the scratch cards with messages and sermons but our view was that other authorities might have an interest to establish whether there was no breach. In so far as it related to telecommunication, we found that there was no violation. It is like buying a fuel coupon, that was almost the same concept," he said.

UFIC launched "Christian Spiritual Link" airtime recharge cards that enabled subscribers of different mobile phone networks to communicate directly with the prophet.

The cards, bearing the inscription "It is not just a text; it's a life-changing link," were being sold for US$3 locally and US$6 outside the country.

UFIC is embroiled in a legal dispute in which motivational speaker, Mr Pascal Nyasha, is suing the prophet for allegedly hijacking his airtime communication project.

Mr Nyasha, who operates Daily Inspiration and Extreme Motivation Centre Pvt Ltd that trades as Pascal Nyasha Seminars International, claims the popular project was his brainchild.

The High Court ruled that the case was not urgent and should follow normal court procedures.

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