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Busy Signal For Zimbabwe Telecommunications As Economy Hangs Up

Frustration is mounting among Zimbabwean telephone subscribers and their offshore family and friends as the country's mobile and fixed-line phone services falter.

It has been increasingly difficult to reach subscribers on the state-controlled NetOne mobile network, or to get through to TelOne fixed-line phones. The privately owned Econet has had problems too, though far fewer than NetOne, or parent TelOne.

Experts say the telecommunications crisis has sprung up on the back of the general economic crisis gripping the country. Fixed-line monopoly TelOne issued a statement recently saying current problems are due to continuous electric power outages.

Three weeks ago, TelOne and Econet jointly informed the public that a connector linking their networks was down. TelOne says the vandalism of telephone cables is another factor in the increasing unreliability of its networks.

Bulawayo and Harare residents report that their fixed lines have been out of service in some cases since last year. They added that they have reported the problems, but TelOne technicians have told them that computer network problems have made it difficult to track line problems let alone follow through to make repairs.

Opposition parliamentarian Murisi Zwizwai, a member of the house committee on communications, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the real problem is insufficient investment by state providers in their networks, arising in part from the chronic shortage of hard currency in the country.

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