Elita Chikwati Senior Reporter—
Zimbabwe yesterday afternoon experienced a disruption in Internet services which affected popular social media applications and fixed line communications due to faults on the main links between South Africa and Harare. Normalcy returned after 5pm when the TelOne back-up link was restored.Liquid Telecom cables that were cut by a tractor 17 kilometres into South Africa from Beitbridge and a TelOne cable cut by Harare City Council employees in Kuwadzana were blamed for the glitch. TelOne said the unexpected interruption on the Internet service was due to faults that occurred on the main links through South Africa and Botswana.
“Our back-up link through Botswana has since been restored, and together with the link through Mozambique we are operating at 50 percent capacity. Our partners in South Africa and TelOne engineers here in Zimbabwe are on the ground working to restore full service on the said major link,” said TelOne in a statement yesterday.
Industry overseer, Postal Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) director-general Dr Gift Machengete said the two service providers – Liquid and TelOne – conveniently have back-up.
“Liquid Telecomm had two cables, but the problem is that they were going in the same direction,” he said. “We will talk to them about it so that we do not have the active cable and redundancy cable going in the same direction because now the two have been cut.
“For TelOne, the one that links them with Telecomm South Africa has also been cut in South Africa and they had one that links through Plumtree, which has been cut by a city council employee in Kuwadzana. They still have one that goes through Nyamapanda to Mozambique and the capacity that is left is very little, hence the problem we have.”
Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security Minister Supa Mandiwanzira yesterday dispelled rumours that Government could have shut down the internet, saying authorities do not have an appetite to cut down such a service.
“We are upset that internet connectivity is not available or has not been available for most of the day,” he said. “Government is concerned about the situation. We expect that the operators must have redundancy so that if one aspect or connection is down, they can activate a different connection.
“It’s a requirement of their licensing that they must always have redundancy. How that redundancy has not kicked in for the nation to notice that there is no internet, we can not understand why.” Minister Mandiwanzira said the regulator would carry out an investigation and Government would respond accordingly.
“At this point, as Government, we want to facilitate business; we are pushing to make business successful and it is the direction of the new President, His Excellency Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, that this country produces,” he said.
“We must be productive, we must focus on work and on growth. We cannot achieve that as fast as we want if we do not have a key element of production, which is the internet, and therefore we are going to re-look at our service providers to make sure that they have all their systems in place to provide redundancy.” Minister Mandiwanzira said yesterday’s incident made Government realise that there was room for investment in the sector to make sure the situation did not recur.
“We are interested as the regulator to make sure we do not have this kind of situation, which impacts negatively on the users. When the licences are issued, network operators sign up to a certain service-level agreement, which says that they should make connectivity available to this kind of percentage and this is not the kind of service that is signed between consumers and subscribers and network operators,” he said.
“This is not what we as the regulators expect. But there could be some genuine problems and it is the role of the regulator to establish that.”