Transport and Communications Minister Mutotwe Kafwaya has challenged ZICTA to up its game in meting out sanctions on any telecommunications company that fails to provide high quality service to consumers.

And Airtel Zambia Plc has apologized for the network outage experienced by its subscribers for almost two hours, Thursday morning, blaming a power outage at its data centre.

Speaking on Hot FM’s Hot Seat programme, Thursday morning, Kaywaya complained about the poor quality of service Airtel was subjecting their subscribers to following a massive network outage that interrupted service.

He challenged ZICTA, the ICT regulator, to impose sanctions on any telecommunications company that failed to adhere to quality of service guidelines to safeguard consumers’ interests.

“I have to tell you that I am also an Airtel subscriber, I have a very active Airtel sim card. We are all affected, I also feel the pain. I think what we need to do is to improve our quality so that we offer proper service to our people. I think that all of us who are in business, all of us who are in service, we have to understand that the primary thing for us is a client; people have to be happy with the level of service that we offer our people. So, clearly, for Airtel and, indeed, the other service providers…there have been complaints about Zamtel, there have been complaints about MTN; we have to improve. I think I have alluded to this before. And ZICTA, being charged with the responsibility to regulate these service providers, and indeed the communication space, must pull up its socks. ZICTA must be able to up its game,” Kafwaya said.

“I think I have been unequivocal when it comes to admonishing ZICTA about this thing; we have to serve our people properly because that’s why we are there. So I feel the pain, but this happened this (Thursday) morning, I don’t have an explanation. This is not the first time it’s happening and each time an occurrence like this happens, we have explanations, people coming with all sorts of excuses. But we need to learn from the past; we need to learn from experiences and be able to improve our quality because we need to determine what causes these problems and be able to resolve them once and for all. So, I think it’s unfortunate that we have to begin the end of year conversation with something that is so negative. I don’t like it, I have to be clear.”

And addressing sentiments from one caller, Abraham Chanda from Lusaka, who called into the programme to warn that the PF will be kicked out of office after the 2021 general election owing to the poor economy, Kafwaya dismissed the assertion.

“You PF, 2021 will be the end of you! The problem with you (is that) you’ve mismanaged our country. The reason why you win by-elections is not because you are popular, the message you have [is] you tell the people that ‘vote for this one. If you don’t vote for him, we will not bring development’, you think that message will hold in 2021? It will be a different ball game in 2021…the way you will be smashed is by 91 per cent! You are going to attain only nine per cent. You have destroyed the whole country. These problems we have now started in 2015, there was load shedding in 2015. You mean you couldn’t plan from that time? If you hear that for two days there will be no water, but then, you still leave your house without drawing water and then when your toilet stinks, can you start saying it’s because there is no water? No! You have not just planned,” Chanda said.

“Even these fire tenders, you are going to explain, we are waiting for 2021. Even those 48 houses, we may not know the owner this time because you can’t give us the owner. But when 2021 comes, we are going to know the owner and we will not even make a mistake to bring PF in power because you have destroyed the country. No one can support you, who can support you? You guys have mismanaged our money and we are removing you!”

However, Mutotwe charged that Chanda was a UPND member.

“Abraham Chanda is clearly speaking for UPND with very aggressive sentiments, we have heard them several times and we have responded to them several times. But we have to tell you that numbers don’t lie and I have established the numbers. He raised the issues of fire tenders, very important story, an old one, which we have already talked about. I talked about this issue here and I referred to President Lungu’s remarks in Parliament when he said we need to strengthen the law, we need to capacitate institutions that look at corruption. Then the US $1 million for fire tenders, we’ve also questioned it, but the question is: ‘what was the process’? And by the way, I have to also include civil servants because people have this notion that when we talk about government, then we are talking about ministers and MPs and the President. But government is the entire machinery, and you might find that in this chain of corruption of fire tenders, ministers might not even be involved,” Kafwaya said.

“So, when these people are talking about these issues, they may be referring to our public workers and public workers need to wake up. They need to know that things must be done properly. Things must be explained. Those fire tenders were not procured by the PF secretariat, they were procured by the Ministry of Local Government and those (48) houses were built by a civil servant, who is not a member of the PF…So, where is the shame of pointing here? You need to be ashamed!”

Meanwhile, Airtel Zambia has apologized for Thursday’s interrupted service.

“Airtel Networks Zambia Plc would like to apologize to all its esteemed customers for the disruption of service that occurred this (Thursday) morning from 07.00 hours and 08.30 hours. We had a power outage at our data centre this morning and our system failed to get back up in good time,” read a statement availed by Airtel Zambia head of corporate communication, government relations and CSR Yuyo Kambikambi.

“We, however, still have a partial outage on the short codes, such as 140 and 575, and our engineers are working to restore normal service as soon as possible. We deeply regret the inconvenience this has caused and thank our customers for their continued patience and support.”