Parly contempt threat for NetOne chairman

A PARLIAMENTARY portfolio committee yesterday threatened to charge NetOne board chairperson, Callistus Ndlovu, with contempt of parliament after he failed to pitch up for a hearing, amid growing confusion over which ministry is in charge of the telecoms firm.

Gift Chimanikire, the chairperson of the committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology, said legislators were considering charging Ndlovu and fellow board members for failing to turn up for the meeting to give evidence on the state of affairs at the debt-ridden company.

“We are concerned by their failure to appear, which will result in us charging them with contempt of parliament,” Chimanikire said after adjourning the meeting. “Failure to attend next week’s meeting shall be considered as contempt of parliament. We will have to charge the chairman of the board. He has no authority to withhold information from the public.”

The committee, he said, last month wrote a letter to the permanent secretary of Information Communication Technology, Sam Kundishora, inviting the board to appear before the legislators.

The letter was copied to NetOne boss Reward Kangai who in turn forwarded it to Ndlovu who then reportedly decided to seek approval from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development headed by Nicholas Goche.

Transport secretary Patson Mbiriri reportedly failed to grant the board the green light to attend the meeting saying the invitation should have come through his ministry, not that of Information Communication Technology led by Nelson Chamisa.

Ironically, Chimanikire said, the NetOne boss last month attended a meeting called by the same committee after he was invited through the Ministry of Information Communication Technology.

Chimanikire said the failure by the board to show up could have been a result of the ongoing fight between the two ministries over control of the communications portfolio.

“Whatever argument they have on who controls the company has nothing to do with the committee. When it comes to committee business, there is no politicking,” Chimanikire said.

The Southerton MP said the aborted meeting was scheduled to raise “serious concerns” on the “below par performance” of NetOne, which recently slipped to third place in terms of subscriptions. The government-owned telecoms company has 500 000 subscribers, trailing Econet and Telecel which have 3,6 million and 600 000 subscribers respectively.

On composition of the board he said: “Some members of the board are from Zellco and Firstel and we wanted to establish if there is no conflict of interest.” Zellco Cellular and Firstel are telecoms service providers.

The oral evidence, according to Chimanikire, was also expected to extract the company’s 2009 audited results and how much dividend it had declared to government.

 

Bernard Mpofu

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