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‘Telecel management mere placeholders’

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FRESH details have revealed that excessive shareholder control and lack of management autonomy pushed out former Telecel Zimbabwe chief executive officer Francis Mawindi from the telecommunications firm, as more drama continues to unfold.

Staff Reporter

Mawindi stepped down at the end of March after less than a year in office. Impeccable sources close to the developments told NewsDay that any successor to Mawindi who has no backing from, and does not fall in line with the anchor shareholder, Egypt-based Orascom, could head for another clash with the board.

The sources said Orascom would often bypass decisions made by local management rendering the chief executive non-effective in discharging his duties.

Telecel Zimbabwe, sources said, requires authorisation and approval from Egypt for virtually everything valued at over $25 000 and in most cases outsources practically all purchases including consulting services regardless of whether the products or services can be readily sourced from the local market.

The sources also said there was a plot to wrest control of the local consortium by fronting local investors with close links to Orascom. The telecommunications firm is 60% owned by Telecel International, while the Empowerment Corporation — a local consortium of individuals and groups — owns 40%.

“The management contract with Orascom as per the existing shareholders agreement with the Empowerment Corporation needs to be looked into, its terms and conditions including Orascom’s specific, real and clear mandate in that respect,” said a source who requested anonymity.

“In most cases, it’s more of providing a supporting role to assist the local operation whereas in actual fact Orascom has wholesomely assumed ownership of management responsibilities including dictating policies and procedures especially as it pertains to HR and Administration matters, procurement, technical and commercial operations including recruitment for critical positions.”

Repeated efforts to get comment from Mawindi, Telecel management and Orascom were in vain. Questions sent to Telecel and Orascom over a month ago were not responded to.
Mawindi took over from expatriate John Swaim who was then the acting chief executive officer.

A US-born Swiss national, Swaim was at one stage deported from Zimbabwe and later returned after strong lobbying from different local groups with vested interest at the mobile communications company. Swaim has since been tipped to return at the helm of Telecel.

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