Mobile network Telecel Zimbabwe says it remains committed to its nearly 2,5m subscribers in Zimbabwe after the high court granted it temporary relief against the cancellation of its operating licence by government.
The Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) had given the VimpelCom majority-owned telecoms company a month to wind down its operations in Zimbabwe.
It cited Telecel’s alleged failure to pay its licence renewal fee on time and failure to comply with local indigenisation policies for the cancellation of the licence.
Telecel then approached the high court seeking relief against the 30-day period within which it was supposed to cease operations.
Telecel also argues that it has continuously engaged government and that it has not defaulted on licence fee payments after agreeing with the country’s information & communication technology (ICT) ministry to stagger the fee payments.
Justice Nicholas Mathonsi yesterday ruled in favour of the relief sought by Telecel. Legal experts say the ruling effectively gives Telecel the right to operate beyond the 30 days Potraz had given it to wind down operations to allow subscribers to migrate to the other two mobile companies in Zimbabwe.
“The company now has to appeal against the licence cancellation to the ICT minister. Even if the appeal process takes long, they will continue operating because they are covered by justice Mathonsi’s ruling,” a legal expert said Friday morning.
Telecel has confirmed that the “high court of Zimbabwe granted an interdict suspending the cancellation of the company’s licence to provide national cellular telecommunications services, pending Telecel Zimbabwe’s appeals on the matter” on Thursday.
Francis Chimanda, spokesman for Telecel Zimbabwe, said in a statement last night that his company was “fully committed to working in Zimbabwe and further developing its telecommunications market”. He also said the company was committed to serving its mobile network, mobile money and mobile insurance subscribers.
The attorney representing the Zimbabwean telecoms industry watchdog Potraz, James Muzangaza, also confirmed the ruling, saying the judge had “granted the application we were strenuously opposing” after determining that it was urgent.
“The net effect of Justice Mathonsi’s order is therefore that Telecel would be allowed to continue with its operations until such time the minister has determined its appeal,” said Muzangaza.
Telecel Zimbabwe is the southern African country’s third largest telecom provider by subscriber numbers after Econet Wireless and state-run mobile firm NetOne.
About 40% of the telco is owned by a consortium of local businessmen under the Empowerment Corporation, while VimpelCom owns the majority 60% stake. — Fin24