INFORMATION Communication Technology and Courier Services minister Supa Mandiwanzira yesterday revealed that officials from Telecel International had booked an appointment with him today to iron out their differences over the local entity’s non-compliance with the country’s indigenisation laws and licences fees.
BY Veneranda Langa/NDAMU SANDU
Mandiwanzira announced the development when he appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information Communication Technology to give oral evidence on the fate of Telecel Zimbabwe following cancellation of its mobile phone operating licence last week.
He said the telecommunications company had failed to comply with the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) requirements despite constant warnings and reminders over the past 15 years.
Telecel has more than 1 000 employees, $3 million circulating in Telecash and two million subscribers.
“In the negotiations between Telecel, government and Potraz, Telecel appealed on an extended period to pay the $137,5 million renewal fees, and they further made a commitment to pay $14 million upon signing the agreement and pay the balance over a period of seven years. Despite the leniency shown by goverment on the payment terms, Telecel failed to pay the $14 million as agreed,” Mandiwanzira said.
“On the date of signing the agreement, Telecel only paid $8 million and it took them 19 months to pay the outstanding $6 million.”
“Telecel International is owned 100% by Global Telecommunications which owns Vimpelcom based in Netherlands with 56% of its shareholding held by a Russian billionaire and they make $20 billion per year and have 30 million subscribers in Bangladesh. This is a big company which never failed to pay licences in other countries, but have defaulted in Zimbabwe.”
He said Telecel still had a chance to appeal through the courts and the minister, but they had not done anything to that effect yet.
Meanwhile, Telecel Zimbabwe empoyees have petitioned the Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment to accept the employee share ownership plan (ESOP) submitted by their employer to enable the government to restore the firm’s operating licence.
“It has come to our attention that the Employee Share Ownership Plan proposed by Telecel Zimbabwe shareholders as a way to transfer shareholding to employees to comply with the indigenisation threshold has been rejected by the regulator hence the company’s licence has been withdrawn on that basis,” the workers said in a petition signed by workers’ committee chairperson David Mhambare.
The workers said Telecel Zimbabwe shareholders had proposed to give employees an 11% stake in the company, a plan they said did not satisfy Potraz.
“It is imperative and expected that if there are any grey areas in establishment of the ESOP, some can be addressed by all stakeholders, principally your esteemed office, in order to address our concerns such that the ESOP meets the dictates of the law and government policy on empowerment,” the workers said.
“We take great exception of the move taken by Potraz and categorically register our displeasure in the failure of the decision taken to address the plight of Zimbabwean employees who have now been rendered jobless immediately.”
The petition was copied to Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda, Minister Mandiwanzira, Speaker of the House of Assembly Jacob Mudenda, Senate President Edna Madzongwe and the Potraz board. It was also copied to the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communication, Technology, Postal and Courier Services Nelson Chamisa and the secretary-generals of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions.