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Zimbabwe AG Blocking Agreement On International Cellular Traffic


The attorney general’s office has yet to sign an agreement with cellphone operators to suspend, as a court recently ordered, implementation of a law that would compel them to use state-owned provider TelOne's international gateway, legal sources said.

Beatrice Mtetwa, lawyer for private mobile operator Econet, said she has written twice to the attorney general's office seeking endorsement of the standstill agreement to which the Postal Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has agreed.

Zimbabwe's third private cell network operator, Telecel, has also signed on. But state-owned provider NetOne, which is already using the TelOne international gateway, has to this point publicly expressed no position in the matter.

The dispute flared last month when the state moved to put into effect a law that would oblige all mobile operators to route international calls through TelOne, costing them revenues and making it easier for the government to monitor foreign calls.

Private operators appealed to the Harare high court, which said another court should first decide whether the statutory instrument was constitutional.

Zimbabwean military authorities have weighed in, saying the law should be enacted so that they can monitor calls in the interest of national security.

Attorney Wilbert Mandinde of the Media Institute of Southern Africa said he finds it surprising that the attorney general’s office should ignore a provisional court order by failing to subscribe to an interim agreement of the parties to the dispute.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...