THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has welcomed a High Court decision suspending the cancellation of Telecel Zimbabwe’s operating licence, saying the move against the telecommunications giant was “shocking and ill-advised”.
The Welshman Ncube-led party also slammed Zanu PF for abusing the indigenisation policy to benefit certain individuals within the party.
The Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) on April 28 cancelled the mobile operators’ licence after it failed to pay its licence renewal fee pegged at $137.5 million.
The country’s second biggest telecommunications firm, with about two million subscribers had, earlier in the year, struck an agreement with government to continue operating while raising money to pay its licence fees.
It also got into a fix as its shareholding structure did not comply with the country’s indigenisation policy, which dictates that foreign companies should not own more than 49 percent in any local business entity.
The company majority shares – 60 percent – are controlled by Telecel International and Empowerment Corporation owns the remaining 40 percent stake.
In a statement, MDC Secretary for Economic Affairs, Senator Tholakele Dlamini, said the government had made a ruthless, selfish and insensitive decision.
“With the economy at its knees and with industrial capacity utilisation lower than 30% and unemployment rate exceeding 80 per cent of the population, it then boggles the mind, how a supposed pro -people Government can make such a ruthless, selfish and insensitive decision,” said Dlamini.
Dlamini accused Zanu PF officials of attempting to push out the rightful owners of the company so they can take over.
“We are well aware that there are a number of Zanu PF vultures who are waiting to grab ownership of the company as soon as the rightful owners are ‘conveniently’ out of the way.
While we are told the decision has been arrived at due to failure by Telecel to fulfil the country’s indigenisation laws and renew its license, the truth, in our view, is that the failure to get the license, if indeed it is true has been due to some individuals in Zanu–PF who have been trying to take over the lucrative company under the banner of indigenisation.
“This continued abuse of the indigenisation policy is a threat to business operations and scaring off current and potential investors in the country. We urge government to practice fairness and transparency for once and leave business to do business while it focuses on running the country,” she said. Advertisement
The opposition party said if the mobile operator is allowed to close, that would ultimately hurt government coffers, which are currently in a critical state.
“The closure of this company will not only affect its hundreds of employees but will inconvenience hundreds of thousands of subscribers due to the collapse of voice calls, mobile internet and Telecash platform and will also negatively affect other businesses that are dependent on Telecel as well as revenue collection by the cash strapped government,” said Dlamini.
“It is for this reason that we welcome the decision by the High Court to suspend the cancellation of the Telecel’s operating license, pending finalisation of its legal battle with Potraz. The MDC believes that we have to break down the Berlin wall that separates those who are included in the economy and those who are not.”