Telecel gets court reprieve

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TELECEL Zimbabwe yesterday won a temporary reprieve to continue operating after High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi suspended cancellation of its operating licence by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz).

BY CHARLES LAITON

In a ruling made in chambers, Justice Mathonsi said the mobile telecommunications firm could continue operating pending finalisation of its legal fight with Potraz.

The mobile phone service provider had appealed to the High Court after Potraz last week cancelled its licence and ordered it to wind up operations within 30 days.

The regulatory authority accused Telecel of failing to comply with the indigenisation laws.

But, Justice Mathonsi rapped Potraz for rushing to cancel the firm’s licence without due regard to the rights of stakeholders in the matter.

“It is apparent that the 1st respondent (Potraz) has acted overzealously… without due regard to the rights of the stakeholders in this matter . . . It has issued a regulating order which ignores the right of the applicant (Telecel Zimbabwe) to appeal,” Justice Mathonsi said.

Addressing the judge before the determination, Telecel lawyer Advocate Firoz Girach said it was surprising that his client’s operating licence was cancelled in “a dramatic manner” adding Potraz had acted outside its mandate.

“The cancellation was done in a dramatic manner, Potraz did not follow its outlined duties in the Post and Telecommunications Act. However, we have since complained about the irresponsibility of the first respondent (Potraz) and asked the Minister (of Information Communication Technology Supa Mandiwanzira) to intervene,” Girach said.

“In this business subscribers need assurance that they will have an uninterrupted service. Once they move across to the next network provider, they are gone, you cannot go to Econet and say please we now have our licence give us our customers back, it is not possible.

“The reality is there is the interests of the over 700 direct workers and in the current environment this court cannot ignore the plight of the employees. What does the respondent expect the applicant to do with these employees if they lose their employment in 30 days’ time from now?”

During the hearing Potraz’s lawyer James Muzangaza claimed that Telecel’s application was not urgent at all and should be filed through the normal process, but his submission was shot down by Justice Mathonsi.

“Potraz is required by the Constitution and the Act to act reasonably and the applicant has the right to lodge the appeal by the 28th day… applicant has the right to seek audience with the minister, but the regulating authority orders ceasing of operations within 30 days, what would be the effect of filing an ordinary application, at what stage did the issue to act arise?” Justice Mathonsi queried.