When we saw a statement from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services announcing that Cabinet had approved a decision to introduce an extra charge on WhatsApp and all other Internet calls, we were almost certain that it was a hoax. The information contained in the statement wasn’t just tying up. But then we remembered that this is Zambia and anything is possible.

“Government has noted an increase in the use of internet phone calls at the expense of traditional phone calls. This development threatens the telecommunications industry and jobs in companies such as Zamtel, Airtel and MTN. Government has, therefore, introduced a 30 ngwee a day tariff on Internet phone calls. Cabinet has since approved the issuance of a Statutory Instrument (SI) that will facilitate the introduction of the tariff to be charged through mobile phone operators and Internet providers. Research shows that 80 per cent of the citizens are using WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber to make phone calls,” read the statement in part.

To start with, this statistic sounds wrong, and to disqualify it, one just has to check their saved contacts and see how many people are able to receive WhatsApp calls, let alone Skype or Viber. There is no way it can be true that 80 per cent of Zambian citizens today use Internet calls to communicate with their friends, family and business associates; unless 80 per cent of Zambians are members of Cabinet.

But assuming that was true, which ignorant member of our Cabinet brought up this suggestion? Who told them that Internet calls are free? Zambians who make Internet calls purchase data units from the same Zamtel, Airtel and MTN, among other providers. When you are done making a WhatsApp call, the phone clearly states how long you took and how much data (money) you spent. So, how and why should people pay double?

And our readers may think 30 ngwee is negligible, no it’s not. According to ZICTA, Zambia has over seven million mobile broadband users. Now, 80 per cent of seven million is 5.6 million. If every Internet caller pays 30 ngwee a day, that comes to K1,680,000. That’s how much citizens will be collectively paying per day, or K20 million a year.

In whose pockets will this money go? MTN? No, we don’t think so. This money is for PF campaigns ahead of 2021. We saw that last week, these Ministers who were agreeing to milk us in Cabinet were spending big over the weekend. Dora Siliya was dishing out money and gifts in Petauke, Jean Kapata was dishing out money in Luangwa, Joe Malanji donated a truckload of mealie meal in Luapula, Bowman was also playing Father Christmas in Ndola, and so was Makebi Zulu in Malambo.
That’s our money they were dishing out for party mobilization and they want more. So, all that nonsense about saving jobs is a decoy to continue milking us. Or if not, then what about other jobs in other industries?

Since more than 80 per cent of news consumers nowadays read free articles we publish on Facebook, when is our hardworking government introducing an extra charge for Facebook users so that they can save jobs at News Diggers! and Times of Zambia? What’s good for the goose must be good for the gander, isn’t it?

Then in order to save jobs at MultiChoice and ZNBC, since more people are now shunning television and spending more time watching YouTube channels, when is our listening government going to introduce another extra charge for anyone who wants to watch social media videos?
What we are trying to say is that this is rubbish! It doesn’t matter whether it came as a proposal from the private sector or it’s an unsolicited government freebee.

The telecommunications industry is run by very well educated people whose jobs are to make sure that their companies remain viable. They get paid hefty salaries to conduct research on how they can, not only save jobs, but also make huge profits. So, why is this Cabinet wasting our taxpayers’ money to gather and start thinking on behalf of Airtel, MTN and Zamtel?
When Telecel and Celtel first came to Zambia they were not offering Internet services. These are the companies that have evolved to become MTN and Airtel today. Back then; they employed a tiny fraction of their current workforce, but they have grown bigger now because they have turned themselves into Internet data service providers. They saw that this was the future of telecommunication and they adapted.

Now, in case government U-turns and says it intends to charge this 30 ngwee on telecommunication companies, this should not comfort subscribers. Just like the landlords have increased rentals in order to hedge against losses from the introduction of withholding tax, Airtel, MTN and Zamtel will simply hike the cost of data so that the 30 ngwee is still paid by the caller.
Awee Zambians, this is too much. This vampire regime has sucked us enough. Like one reader commented, this government can tax you for overusing your own private parts. There must be someone reasonable enough to tell the President that his ministers are restlessly making him unpopular.

Surely, do these people debate these things, or perhaps one just stands and says, “let’s charge for Internet because people are using it for free”, then everyone agrees, “yes, yes Honourable has a point. No more free calls…” Ba pompwee aba, what a shame!!

Anyway. Once again, we must say that we will not get tired reminding these PF ministers that these laws they are formulating will haunt them when their time is up.

Today, they can boast that they will rule for 100 years, but we can bet on our lives that none of them will live that long. One by one, they will join us on the streets. Even the most powerful ones who can’t be fired from this regime will still have to face the people they are oppressing some day. One by one, they will relocate from Cabinet straight to Leopards Hill. That is how nature equalizes dictators and victims.