Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Dial UP your power

TOP del.icio.us

Yesterday I was moved and encouraged by Bev Clark’s call to Act. Organize. Assemble. Oppose. Resist. And I thought I’d share a suggestion for Zimbos (as they call us out there) to stand unified toward a common cause for once.

What’s gotten me going is how the cell phone network providers continue to unapologetically rip us off! How do they justify tariff increases when I receive urgent messages one hour late, or spend the whole day without network (and the network provider does not find it necessary to apologize!)? Also, I make a 20 second call, and I get charged for a full minute! What sheer daylight robbery! WE WANT CALLS CHARGED BY THE SECOND. With inter-network calls on Net One now costing $345 per minute (up from $90), and intra-network calls from Net One to both Econet and Telecel costing $450 (up from $117), has anyone noticed improved service, or has anyone yet managed to make a call and have it go through first time rather than after at least eight attempts during ‘peak period’?

I especially liked Bev’s term: ‘non-compliance‘ rather than engaging in direct action or demonstrations. You will probably agree with me that Zimbabweans have an unparalleled complacency that borders on the irritating. I do not excuse myself from the lot. I figured that since we continue to suffer in silence, passively, we might as well adapt this as a strength: passive resistance. Let’s simply switch off our cell phones. Even if we do this for just an hour we can inflict major losses on the network providers. And at the same time remind them that they’re in business because of us – their customers.

The Lebanese did it, as did Nigeria. I came across an article about a Nigerian consumer boycott written by Jonathan Elendu. Part of it reads

On September 19, 2003, Nigerians were supposed to turn off their cell phones to protest high fees and other problems resulting from using mobile phone service in Africa’s largest and maybe, richest country. The strike was called by the National Association of Telecom Consumers (NATCOM) a consumer advocacy group formed by frustrated cell phone subscribers in Nigeria.

In Beirut, Lebanon, they did it on July 15 of the year 2004 I think. The nation’s consumer union asked everyone to keep their phones off for at least 24 hours to protest the astronomical prices charged by network providers. Lebanon, you see, is a nation of cell phone addicts, and Zimbabwe is slowly but surely becoming that. The people who joined the boycott not only left an indelible mark, but their action prompted the lowering of tariffs, for a short while at least. A sign that the boycott captured the attention of some Lebanese was illustrated by a joke that circulated Lebanese society, about Abou Abed and Abou Staif two men living in Beirut. The two decided to join the boycott, communicating by carrier pigeon all day. But when a pigeon arrived with a blank piece of paper Abou Abed was stumped and finally in frustration used his cell to call Abou Staif. “You Idiot,” Abou Staif says. “That’s a missed call.”

Ha ha ha! But our situation in Zimbabwe is not funny. Why don’t we Zimbabweans recognize the power of collective action and do the same? This would be our chance to show these swindlers who the boss is. A successful cell phone boycott would not only keep thousands of dollars in our pockets, but will also represent a first-of-its-kind attempt at broad civic action to put pressure on the network providers.

Another positive aspect of a boycott – we won’t be charged under POSA for a public demo. Neither will anyone hold us accountable for having switched our phones off! And even if they don’t lower tariffs; I’d still be proud of myself. Wouldn’t you?

2 comments to “Dial UP your power”

  1. Comment by Tawanda Maguze:

    You put across a very interesting idea Tasha (if u will allow me to call you that). Needless to say I really want to know whether you would be willing to be the first one to stage that boycott and lead by example so to speak, with the way zimbos are just so keen to say ‘nchakufonera pacellular’ you figure they would be able to do that. think practically dear izvozvo, ungaripedza here zuva usina kumboti either your boyfriend or husband twaspu? Am challenging you to do it for a day then am sure we all would be more than willing to stage collective action. I dare you

  2. Comment by too rich:

    tasha as that maguze boy has called u i hope u dont mind calling u that as well.i was also shocked to hear about these increases but i am lucky my sister in america anonditumira mari i juss spend all of it talking to my gail san .i supose i shud consider myself lucky i have tried this theory wat the heck.i mite die tomorrow so mari ndaidyiwe i luv magirl big time has to check her out all the time.its cheaper when u get married u live in the same house.that mite work for you then wouldnt it or maybe u r married already.neva mind