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Phone Lines Cut Off as Harare and Pretoria Negotiate a Bailout

Operations of Zimbabwe’s monopoly fixed-line telecommunications provider Telone have been hamstrung by South African TelKom’s decision to sever Telone’s access to its domestic network, cutting off many Zimbabwean émigrés from family and friends and obliging Telone to route calls to South Africa by way of Canada.

Telkom cut off the state-controlled Zimbabwean company because cash flows from an agreement for cross-border collaboration went deeply into the red. Harare residents say Telone’s woes are weighing on their personal and professional lives.

David Mutomba in Harare filed a report to VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.

Some Zimbabweans see politics at work in the business dispute between Telkom and Telone, given current tensions between Harare and Pretoria, which has agreed to bail out Zimbabwe financially but demans on political and economic reforms in exchange.

Reporter Praxedes Jeremiah of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with South Africa-based lawyer Daniel Molokele, a Zimbabwean who is active in émigré-support groups and writes a column for the Web site

Mr. Molokele says Telekom’s main concern was financial – but that politics probably played a role in the decision given Pretoria's frustration with Harare.

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