The Consumer Unity Trust Society (CUTS) says the newly-introduced 30 ngwee per day Internet tariff needs a consultative meeting where all the affected stakeholders can express their views regarding its introduction.

Commenting on President Edgar Lungu’s assertion that the country must move on from debating the newly-introduced 30 ngwee per day Internet tariff because Zambians had already accepted it, CUTS Centre Coordinator Chenai Mukumba said the tariff needed to be reconsidered because ordinary Zambians were already squeezed with the different taxes that they had to pay and that the level of disposable income was limited.

She wondered where President Lungu witnessed a public meeting where Zambians agreed that the Internet tariff needed to be introduced, and insisted that government needed to conduct a thorough public discussion so that everyone could contribute their views regarding the tariff.

“Our concern, really, are consumers. We have explained that if consumers are moving from traditional phone calls to Internet-based phone calls, then it’s because they are providing similar services at a much more affordable cost. And that really is just rational economic behaviour on the part of consumers and the group that you see that is moving towards this direction are low-income consumers. And already, when you look at an average Zambian, we are already squeezed in terms of the different taxes that we have to pay, and so our level of disposable income is quite limited. So, that’s why we, as CUTS, have come out so strongly to say that we are not in support of this particular initiative by the government; it needs to be reconsidered,” Mukumba said in an interview.

She added that she was not aware of any meeting where people agreed that government should effect the 30 ngwee tariff as President Lungu alleged that “people have already accepted it”.

“It is actually important to undertake a consultative stakeholder meeting so that all of the different stakeholders can have a say on this. We really need to have a public discussion regarding this because if stakeholder meetings did take place, then they could agree because, honestly, I don’t know anyone who was part of that meeting [where people agreed to effect the 30 ngwee tariff]. So, I think it’s important for us or for the government to have this discussion much more publicly so that we are all able to contribute [to] this meeting. But I think in terms of moving forward, we are very unlikely to see anybody in support of it. So, as CUTS, and as various civil society organisations, we are urging the government to reconsider this decision. I think with Parliament opening, there will be a number of civil society organisations that will be engaged on this subject, so we hope that it can be reconsidered,” said Mukumba.