Zimbabwe crisis: Cellphone tariffs double, petrol price jumps 12%

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Amid a growing economic disaster, Zimbabweans face steep hikes in cellphone rates and fuel prices this week.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) on Tuesday announced a 12% increase in the price of petrol from Z$14.97 to Z$16.75 (R15.57 using Tuesday’s exchange rate of Z$1: R0.932), while that of diesel increased from Z$15.64 to Z$17.47 (R16.24). 

According to the statement issued by ZERA, the fuel price increase was driven by the weakening of the Zimbabwean dollar against the US dollar, which is used to pay for fuel imports. 

The exchange rate used stood at Z$15.57 per US$1, weakening from an exchange rate of Z$13 per US$1. 

Meanwhile the telecoms regulator, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), approved a 95% increase in mobile tariffs across the board. 

The increase comes after the regulator approved a further increase of 182% as recently as August 2019. 

Justifying the increase, Potraz said the current tariff threshold set in August 2019 has been rendered "unsustainable as the operating environment has further deteriorated due to inflationary pressures". 

"Accordingly, the Authority has found it necessary to review tariff thresholds for telecommunication services by up to 95.39% based on the Telecommunication Price Index (TPI) that was computed in consultation with all operators. 

"In view of the foregoing, and guided by the Act, all public switched and mobile operators may adjust their tariffs in line with the above thresholds for approval by the Authority," reads Protraz's statement. 

The latest adjustment will see on-net calls per minute cost 96 cents (Zimbabwean dollars) or 89.28 South African cents, up from 48 cents (Z$) or 44.64 cents (SA). 

The new price and tariff increases come at a time when the country's statistics agency (Zimstat) said the total consumption poverty line for an average of five persons per household stood at $2 192.00 (R2 038) in September 2019. 

The poverty datum line represents the cost of a given standard of living that must be attained if a person is deemed not to be poor.

The lowest paid government worker in Zimbabwe earns $1030 (about R958).

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