THOUSANDS of airtime vendors may soon find themselves jobless as mobile phone companies in the country are moving towards scraping airtime recharge scratch cards in the next two months in compliance with a Government directive issued last year.
The Government, in December last year, gave mobile phone operators a six-month ultimatum to phase out airtime scratch cards and adopt electronic airtime recharging options. The ultimatum which expires in June, comes as a response to the challenge of litter created by the airtime top-up option.
However, thousands of airtime vendors who had found employment in airtime recharge cards selling business risk being rendered jobless with the introduction of electronic mobile phone airtime top-up.
Environmental Management Agency education and publicity manager Mr Steady Kangata last week confirmed that all the mobile phone operators had submitted to the agency the proposed alternative airtime top-up options.
He said EMA was satisfied with the response from the mobile phone companies following the issuance of the ultimatum and expressed confidence that all the companies will comply.
“All the companies have submitted their proposals on how they are going to phase out the airtime recharge cards and introduce electronic means of toping up airtime. We are satisfied with the plans they have submitted and we don’t doubt at all that by the time the ultimatum expires there would not be any company still using scratch cards,” he said.
Mr Kangata said airtime scratch cards were a major source of litter hence the decision to embargo their use and encourage environment friendly airtime top-up options.
Asked on what sort of sanction would be meted on mobile phone companies that will not comply with the directive, Mr Kangata referred the matter to the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri.
However, she could be reached for comment. Fines for littering range from $20 to $5 000.
One of the leading mobile phone operators in the country, Econet Wireless has already introduced alternative airtime top-up to the traditional scratch cards.
Econet Wireless executive assistant to the group chief executive officer Mr Lovemore Nyatsime said the company had activated 20 000 merchants to sell electronic airtime. He said his company supported the measures taken by EMA to protect the environment.
“Going into the future, as part of efforts to encourage subscribers to shift to paperless airtime transactions, we long started a process of encouraging our subscribers to use EcoCash and other electronic means of recharging their phones. As of February 2016 we have over 22 000 EcoCash agents and 20 000 merchants who are activated to sell electronic airtime.
This is in addition to integration of major banks who are activated for electronic airtime sales. As we gradually move towards paperless airtime transactions, we are continuously educating both our vendors and clients on the advantages of electronic airtime sales,” he said.
Added Mr Nyatsime: “We fully support measures being taken by the Environmental Management Agency to protect the environment. As an organisation this consciousness drives our business ethos and we have expressed our voice through global platforms such as the Carbon War Room.”
Telecel public relations, corporate social responsibility and sponsorship manager Mr Francis Chimanda said the organisation was still consulting with Government on the matter.
“We are in consultative discussions with the Government and the various bodies representing the Government on this matter. Telecel is working closely with Potraz and the regulator will be able to share more details regarding the consultations,” he said.
NetOne spokesperson Mr John Nyashanu could not immediately discuss the measure being taken by his organisation to comply with the directive saying he was checking with his bosses.
TelOne, which sells Wi-Fi vouchers in the form of scratch cards has already started complying with the ban.
Although the company’s public relations officer Miss Rosemary Sande could not confirm the development when contacted on Thursday last week, Sunday News has established that the vouchers can now be accessed online.