Follow the law to survive, minister tells Telecel Zimbabwe

MOBILE phone operator Telecel Zimbabwe must sell a majority stake in the company to local black investors if it wants to continue operating in the country, a government minister said on Monday.TELECEL

Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulator last week cancelled Telecel’s license and gave it 30 days to cease operations.

The country’s black empowerment law requires foreign-owned firms to sell at least 51 percent of their shares to local black investors.

Netherlands-based Vimpelcom owns 60 percent of Telecel and local investors own the rest.

The shareholding structure had violated the terms of Telecel’s licence, which stipulates that foreign investors can own no more than 40 percent of the company, Information Communication Technology Minister Supa Mandiwanzira told a parliamentary committee on Monday.

But he added: “Telecel Zimbabwe still has a window to survive and operate. There is still room for Telecel Zimbabwe to follow the law and operate.”

Telecel said on Monday the government had rejected its proposal to sell 11 percent of its shares to its workers. It has said it will challenge the regulator’s decision, describing it as unfair and unwarranted.

Mandiwanzira said he would meet Telecel executives on Tuesday.

Telecel is the smallest wireless phone network in Zimbabwe, with 2.15 million subscribers, according to latest data from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

Mandiwanzira denied government was hostile towards the company.

“The Government has not been hostile towards Telecel Zimbabwe,” he said.

“If anything, I have demonstrated Government’s lack of hostility towards Telecel Zimbabwe by allowing it to continue when its actions were actually contrary to the expectations of the law.

“We worry about jobs, we worry about growing the economy but we are not worried about our actions when they are legal and justified.”

The minister added: “In fact what we are doing gives confidence to more investors in our sector because anyone who wants to invest in an ICT sector in a country wants to make sure that whenever they put their money there’s predictability.

“But when there’s no predictability, they are not sure about their investment. How do you ensure predictability, Mr Chairman?

“You make sure that everything that you do is by the law. In this particular case they didn’t stick to the law which allows predictability. It is fact that they have failed to comply.”