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Telecel gets reprieve

THE cancellation of Telecel Zimbabwe’s operating licence by the Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) was yesterday suspended by the High Court giving hope to over 800 employees who were set to lose their jobs by end of month.


High court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi suspended Potraz’s order that cancelled the mobile operator’s licence and ordering it to wind up its operations, pending the hearing of the mobile operators’ appeal by the Minister of Information Communication Technology Supa Mandiwanzira.

Mathonsi also rapped Potraz’s move against Telecel Zimbabwe describing it as “overzealousness”, adding the regulatory authority acted without due regard to the rights of other 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, granting an urgent interim interdict order suspending Potraz’s order.

The ruling by Mathonsi was received with joy by Telecel Zimbabwe’s major shareholder Jane Mutasa, who openly ululated in the court room just after the judge had left the chambers.

“I am very happy with the verdict because this is what we were looking for. We have about 820 workers, and there are also vendors who are surviving through selling our products. This is a big company and it cannot be shut down just like that. The minister has got to rethink,” Mutasa said.

Addressing the judge before the determination, Telecel’s 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.

“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.

Last week, Potraz announced Telecel’s licence cancellation, saying it had failed to comply with the Indigenisation Act — an assertion dismissed by the mobile operator.

Instead, Telecel said it approached the authorities and indicated that it had failed to find an investor, but had come up with an Employees Share Option Plan (Esop), which Potraz reportedly shot down describing it as a cheap attempt to “hide behind the fact that Esop was not particularised to its satisfaction”.

Gerald Mlotshwa, a lawyer for Empowerment Corporation — a local consortium which has a 40% stake in Telecel — concurred with Telecel Zimbabwe saying Potraz had acted in contravention of relevant statutes in that it was not its responsibility to cancel Telecel’s licence. Political vultures were already circling over the Telecel corporate carcass.

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