The Namibian (Windhoek)

11 January 2013

Namibia: Is Telecom Namibia a Cheating Soe?

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TELECOM belongs to the state of Namibia. Therefore, it belongs to all the people of Namibia. Why, I ask, is our own business cheating us? Is the management of this business responsible for this practice or the overseer, Minister of Information and Communication Technology Joel Kaapanda?

I visited the local Teleshop today. I am a new customer of Telecom; I bought their product called Callmaker last year. I bought it for my wife because she is crippled by an illness and therefore unable to use a cell phone. Now I heard that I have to recharge regularly at Telecom prescribed intervals. It does not matter if there is still a credit balance or not, I have to recharge, period! And the minimum amount I have to pay is N$50. N$50 is not small change if you are old, poor or both.

It happens that I still had a credit of N$89, 62. Yes, my wife is not infected by the 'Telefonitis' yet, which is the sickness that forces people to babble on the phone all day long. Because of this, a relatively high credit-balance was possible. I hear in town, there are other people who have the same problem. Their credit is already hundreds of dollars and nevertheless, they have to buy new 'airtime' every now and then. Is this an honest business practice or fraud? Telecom forces these people to consume, to spend money when they should be encouraged to save their money for food.

I paid N$75 for the installation of the Callmaker and I also paid N$100, the prescribed first 'airtime'. Because Telecom advertised the Callmaker as a cheaper alternative to the landline telephone, I understood it being a service for the people, a service initiated by government and I decided to get one. Now I found out that I am enriching a monopolistic SOE.

The state is the sole shareholder of Telecom and also Leo and also the majority shareholder of MTC. So, the industry is in the hands of only one company without any competition - and I am not at all convinced that this is legal in Namibia, a country that has laws and a constitution to protect its people. If there are legal doubts, then the question of legality has to be clarified, a job for the parliamentary opposition and the ACC, Anti-Corruption Commission or the Competition Commission.

Why does Joël Kaapanda, the minister responsible for the ITC sector, play the role of godfather over something nobody can call an ethical business practice? Has government turned to 'Mafia' or 'Cosa Nostra' practices? Why did the President's office not intervene? Or could it be that I am the very first one to bring this foul practice to the attention of the public?

In our country there are more poor than rich people. And it is the poor and those not longer working who buy the Callmaker for their occasional calls. Can it be that those who are not 'active' any longer or too poor are the ones targeted for plundering via Telecom?

How long will this go on? Please, people of Namibia, get real, it is your money and my money and definitely not Telecom's money! Please understand this well and do as I now did, fight the evil! Speak up, because if you stay mum, the robbery will go on indefinitely!

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