Information Communication Technology Minister Supa Mandiwanzira is to meet Telecel International directors today to decide the future of the mobile telephone network following the cancellation of its licence by the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) last week.
Mandiwanzira told a parliamentary committee yesterday that the government was not being vindictive against the mobile telephone network but was simply implementing the law because Telecel International had failed to comply with the Postal and Telecommunications Act which required that 51 percent of the ownership must be local.
Telecel International, which is wholly owned by Global Telecom, which is in turn owned by VimpelCom, owns 60 percent of Telecel Zimbabwe.
“The issues that led to their licence being cancelled is on the basis of their failure to comply with the Postal and Telecommunications Act provisions on the 51-49 percent ownership, their licence was cancelled for non-compliance on the aspects of local ownership elements,” Mandiwanzira told the committee, according to The Herald.
“When POTRAZ became operational in 2001, it amended the licences that were issued prior to its establishment to align them with the Act in 2002. At the time of the amendment of licences, Telecel’s shareholding structure comprised 60 percent shareholding by Telecel International and 40 percent shareholding by Empowerment Corporation. The amended licence was issued with a condition that the licensee should ensure that foreign ownership shall be reduced to 49 percent within a period of five years from the date of signing the licence document…
“On the 10th of August 2007 they appealed to the Minister of Transport Communication and Infrastructural Development against the cancellation of the licence….
“By the end of the 15 years, which was the initial tenure of its licence in 2013, Telecel Zimbabwe had still not complied with the shareholding structure…
“The Government has not been hostile towards Telecel Zimbabwe. If anything, I have demonstrated government’s lack of hostility towards Telecel Zimbabwe by allowing it to continue when its actions were actually contrary to the expectations of the law. We worry about jobs, we worry about growing the economy but we are not worried about our actions when they are legal and justified.
“In fact what we are doing gives confidence to more investors in our sector because anyone who wants to invest in an ICT sector in a country wants to make sure that whenever they put their money there’s predictability. But when there’s no predictability, they are not sure about their investment. How do you ensure predictability, Mr Chairman? You make sure that everything that you do is by the law. In this particular case they didn’t stick to the law which allows predictability. It is fact that they have failed to comply,” Mandiwanzira said.
There is a feeling that Telecel is being victimised because former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who issued Telecel its licence when she was Minister of Information, denying Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet, has a stake in the network.