Vandalism, theft threaten telecoms operations

By Staff reporter | 24 Feb 2020 at 18:42hrs
THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) is rolling out consumer awareness campaigns in response to growing incidents of vandalism and theft of telecommunications infrastructure, which pose a serious threat to network efficiency and related economic activities.

With Zimbabwe being among the early adopters of digital technologies and electronic commerce (e-commerce), the regulator believes aggressive consumer awareness is critical in ensuring telecoms infrastructure safety and attracting increased investment in the sector.

For the past week (February 16 to 22, 2019), Potraz has been holding awareness campaigns under the theme: "Stop vandalism and theft of ICT equipment: let us take action", with consumers at community level in different parts of Matabeleland South province.

Addressing consumers in Plumtree Town on Saturday, Potraz head of consumer affairs and publicity, Mr George Manyaya, said vandalism of telecoms infrastructure poses a serious threat to the entire economy and cripples viability of the telecoms industry in particular.

"When the telecommunications network is disrupted it's us the users who are affected and cannot communicate or transact," he said.  

"Let's work together, we know these thieves and they live within our communities. Let us report them to the police as they are putting our country backwards. Let us take ownership and responsibility, these base stations belong to us."

Mr Manyaya said in areas like Kezi in Matobo District, mobile connectivity and online business/transactions have been down for several weeks following theft of cables. He said telecommunications infrastructure occupies a central place in the socio-economic development of the country hence the need for communities to safeguard such an investment.

"A major clog in the wheel of rapid and sustainable growth of the sector is vandalism and theft of telecommunications equipment. This has caused considerable losses to the country and service providers," he said.  

"All hands must be on deck to combat this menace. We all need to take action and ensure that we protect the equipment".  

Mr Manyaya expressed concern over what he termed "a growing trend", which has resulted in all network operators experiencing a number of theft and vandalism cases at their base stations.

"This has resulted in disruption of network availability, losses in revenue and increased costs of replacing the lost equipment. Thieves are stealing generator fuel, batteries, copper cables, transformer oil and solar panels and in the process damaging fences, locks and security cameras," he said.  

"We should work together as Potraz, operators, the community, local authorities and law enforcement agents to eradicate vandalism. Those who steal should rot in jail as they are doing a de-service to the industry, economy and the community at large."  

The regulator has since urged communities to be vigilant and report to the police or service providers any acts of vandalism or theft in their vicinity. This includes forming neighbourhood watch teams and surveillance on the market for second hand batteries and solar panels.

Mr Manyaya said acts of vandalism require costly remedial actions before the sites are brought back to provide the essential services.

In view of digital advancement in the economy, many people today depend on telecoms for their livelihood and service disruption results in job losses and reduced tax income paralysis of businesses and other activities.

This also affects communication during emergencies while operators suffer loss of reputation due to prolonged down time. The week-long consumer awareness roadshows covered places like Shangani, Mbembesi, Maphisa, Natisa, Malalume, Dombodema, Madlambuzi, Ndolwane, Ingwizi, Mphoengs, Brunapeg and Plumtree Town.



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