A few weeks ago, it was once again announced that Telecel was going to have to shut down its operations and leave a nation of loyal customers without arguably the best option for mobile service provision in Zimbabwe. POTRAZ, the telecommunications regulating authority has made it clear that Telecel’s licence has expired or is no longer valid. The telecoms company, has risen in recent years and re-branded itself as a service that is not only now reliable, but also the best value for money. Their bundles (every time you load airtime, you receive an equal amount free, among other mouth-watering specials), have won them loyalty from customers new and old. But what now?
Depending on who you ask, POTRAZ’s move against Telecel was hasty and without foundation, considering the beleaguered telecoms company’s well-documented licensing woes. All of the details of this now sordid affair have Telecel fighting for its very existence in a drama worthy of Isidingo for the casual spectator, or those safe and snug with an Econet or Net One line. Telecel customers are probably wondering if they backed the wrong ship, and whether they will make it out of this alive. A friend bemoaned having to change the phone number she has been using for the past ten years. But what about the Telecel worker? What does this all mean for them?
Depending on who you talk to, unemployment in Zimbabwe is between 80% and 90%. Let’s take a minute to take that in. This means, depending on which statistic you ascribe to, between 20 and 10% of the population are formerly employed and have a regular salary. Then, take into account how hard it must be not only to find a job, to keep a job and also how many people who have jobs, who work hard and are actually not getting paid. In the face of this, the government is going to go ahead and try and casually un-employ approximately 1000 Telecel workers based on a technicality? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the twilight zone!
Yes, jobs are hard to come by, and considering the economic climate we are all operating in, it is hard enough for someone to have some sense of security, some sense that there will be able to food on the table month after month and pay the dreaded school fees. Our government came into power in the last election cycle on the promise that they would create jobs, but not only have they not done so, but they also seem intent on taking away the jobs of those who actually have them.
A stroll through the CBD on any given day will show you that statistics are not only on paper. 90% unemployment is real. It has forced everyone and their mother to set up shop to try and sell you something. Anything. While we wait for these promised jobs to magically appear. We have somehow gotten used to this worker insecurity. Remember when conversion from Zim dollars to US dollars saw many watch their pensions disappear to nothing? A lifetime of work, reduced to virtually nothing. As Zimbabweans, we have mastered a sense of impermanence. Having a job is not a right, it is a privilege for the very very few.
While the efforts of Telecel workers to keep their jobs should be applauded, their fate very much hangs in the balance. Just in case, I have both an Econet and Telecel line. I, like many others, can only watch and see who will win. David or Goliath?
Main photograph is taken from www.1.bp.blogspot.com