President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week paid glowing tribute to Tel-One managing director Mrs Chipo Mtasa on her successful turnaround of the parastatal, saying her track record sets the tone for the appointing of more women to head State enterprises.
The President was speaking at the commissioning of the National Backbone Fibre link last week in Beitbridge, launched after the company meritoriously utilised a portion of a US$98 million loan from China Export and Import Bank (Exim Bank) to expand the country’s broadband services. In the past, funds provided by the Chinese have been abused with a case in point being the US$144 million extended to the previous MDC-led Harare City Council for rehabilitation of the capital city’s water works.
Unlike such projects, the Tel-One initiative has gone according to plan and last week’s successful launch of the fibre optic link was a marker of Mrs Mtasa’s diligence.
Diverting from his prepared speech, President Mnangagwa showered praises on Mrs Mtasa while suggesting that her performance should see more women being appointed to similar positions.
“I know that Mrs Mtasa is at the head of this project and she is doing very well, I am not sure now whether this should persuade me to have women leading parastatals,” said the President.
He implored other parastatals to emulate Tel-One and perform according to expectations.
“I commend Tel-One for the prudent manner they utilised the financial resources for this Government initiated and guaranteed project. I urge all public entities to take a leaf from this good example and instil a culture of good stewardship, hard honest work, accountability and transparency in the implementation of national projects.
“The days of incomplete projects and non-payment of loans are over.”
In her remarks, Mrs Mtasa said the project, which was one of the mega deals signed between Zimbabwe and China had been completed in record time.
“The development we are celebrating today is a project which came about through the mega deals negotiated under a Government to Government agreements between the Government of Zimbabwe and the Government of China,” she said.
“This resulted in a loan facility of US$98 million coming through from China Eximbank and the project being implemented by Huawei Technologies of China together with our own team of engineers in record time of 18 months.”
Mrs Mtasa said the project would ensure that the country never experience internet blackouts.
“What this means is that a total internet blackout can be avoided on the network as traffic can now be seamlessly re-routed without any disruption to our clients in the case of a fibre- break or any other mishap.”
The fibre link project has potential to generate foreign currency for Tel-One, which is faced with huge foreign liabilities as the company had been importing internet bandwidth and telecommunications equipment.
“It is therefore our hope that the link we are launching today (last week) will assist in terms of foreign currency as it has huge potential to earn us foreign currency through offering transit backhaul services to clients within the SADC region,” said Mrs Mtasa
A former chief executive of Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG), Mrs Mtasa joined Tel-One in 2013 and immediately implemented a turnaround strategy that has seen the company transforming from a fixed telephone operator to a diversified telecommunications firm that focuses on the digital footprint.
She has made Tel-One one of the few parastatals to provide Government a credible plan that ensures its debts, which were largely carried from the old Post and Telecommunications Corporation, can be warehoused and at some point be relinquished. A chartered accountant by profession, Mrs Mtasa’s contract at Tel-One was extended at the end of 2016 by another four-years, owing to her stellar performance as head of the parastatal.