Harare – Lazarus Muchenje, the Chief Executive Officer of Zimbabwe’s second largest mobile network operator on subscriber base has returned to work on 21 February 2019 after spending 6 months on a legally challenged suspension. Muchenje fell out of favour with his paymaster after refusing to cede to pressure to accept contract renewal instructions for the company’s top executives outside the board’s obligation. Having joined the company on 1 April 2018, Muchenje was suspended without pay on 6 August 2018 after serving government owned NetOne for four months.

Under Muchenje’s 4 months leadership, NetOne regained profitability and improved its service delivery. With economic challenges in Zimbabwe at present, will Muchenje’s return rekindle fortunes at the beleaguered parastatal?

With a career that includes work in more than 15 African countries as well as in European countries, Muchenje has an impressive resume as he held senior positions with blue chip, multi-national companies in Africa, including Vodafone Group, FirstRand Bank and Celpay. His brief stint at NetOne had ushered a new culture of professionalism at the public institution. It is believed that Muchenje’s suspension from NetOne was more political than corporate as confirmed by his return and the dismissal of the entire NetOne board after former Zimbabwe ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira failed to retain his position under Mnangwgwa’s elected government. Mandiwanzira was replaced by Kazembe Kazembe as the country’s Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services. The new NetOne board was appointed on 20 December 2018 and is chaired by James Price Mutizwa.

According to the latest Q3 2018 sector performance report by the country’s postal and telecommunications regulatory authority (POTRAZ), Zimbabwe’s broad communications landscape stands as follows:

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  1. 91.9 percent mobile penetration rate.
  2. 7,690,134 active internet subscribers.
  3. 55.4% internet penetration rate.
  4. 7,395TB of internet data was used in the quarter under review.
  5. $331, 2 million mobile telecommunications revenue was generated.

Using data from the POTRAZ Q3 report, below is a graphical insight by ENN on performance statistics from Zimbabwe’s top three mobile network operators.

Figure 1: Performance Analysis of Zimbabwe’s Mobile Operators by ENN (Data Source: POTRAZ Q3 2018 Report)

Econet Wireless Zimbabwe was founded by Strive Masiiwa who is the group’s executive chairman and is the country’s mobile telecommunications market leader. In the height of cash shortages in Zimbabwe, mobile money platforms have become popular with Econet’s Ecocash mobile money platform leading on both subscriptions and revenue, Zimbabwe monetary reports confirm. It is from these broad facts that Muchenje’s mobile market impact will be measured as investors and stakeholders appraise NetOne’s model for market growth, profitability and customer satisfaction. – ENN