Zimbabwe has disclosed plans to fast-track the privatization of telecom firms, namely NetOne and TelOne, in a move to cut state funding to parastatal entities.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube confirmed the plans as he launched his Transitional Stabilization Program (TSP) in Harare aiming to achieve growth and development. He also demanded that the underperforming companies be privatized in the next six to nine months.

“As part of Zimbabwe's Public Enterprise Reforms, I have set deadlines for privatization for under-performing state-owned enterprises and those earmarked for disposal -such as NetOne, TelOne and People's Own Savings Bank,” said Ncube.

In a meeting with Chatham House in London, the Minister told delegates that in 2017, Zimbabwe spent approximately US$500 million to support companies that are struggling and draining the fiscus.

According to regional media reports, other government departments owe TelOne large amounts in unsettled bills, while corruption allegations have affected NetOne.

“We want to move fast, we want to privatize eleven enterprises quickly. I have given some of them six months just to get on with it,” Ncube said in his address to Chatham House. “Between the next six to nine months, I want to see progress and conclusion of some privatization deals”, he added.

In April this year, TelOne, NetOne were categorized under government companies that are designated for “partial privatization”. Telecel Zimbabwe, in which the government has a majority stake after buying out VimpelCom, was also provisioned for partial privatization. Other Zimbabwean state-owned telecom firms along with ISPsZarnet, Powertel and Africom are to be merged.

Not to forget that the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) as well as the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe will also be integrated.