The Zimbabwean ICT ministry has effectively cancelled Telecel’s operating licence. The move by the official was due to the mobile operator’s alleged failure to settle its outstanding debt. The debt incurred, according to Nehan Radio, is currently at USD 137.5 million – which was initially for the licence fee.
According to ICT Minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, the authority has confirmed the cancellation of Telecel’s licence. Vimpelcom owns 60 percent of Telecel Zimbabwe while exiled businessman James Makamba, and politician Jane Mutasa, own the remaining stake.
In addition to the cancellation Mandiwanzira stated that: “The ICT Ministry is cancelling the agreement Telecel made with government to pay the $137,5 million license over time.”
According to the report, Econet Wireless remains the only telecommunications company to have paid the R1.6 billion licence. Telecel was the second largest operator and has more than 2,2 million subscribers against the country’s total population of 11,4 million subscribers.
According to Mandiwanzira “Telecel has been operating without a licence since the expiry of their licence. They need to have paid US$ 137,5 million, which is the licence fee due to Government. They failed to pay, they asked for payment terms and they were granted payment terms through an agreement with the Ministry of ICTs, and they have even reneged on that agreement; therefore, the ministry, or Government, has cancelled that agreement.”
“Effectively this means that they are operating without a licence – in fact they have not had a licence anyway. The reason why we are allowing them to operate is simply because we acknowledge that as a business, they employ Zimbabweans; they have subscribers who, if we take drastic action, will be inconvenienced,” Mandiwanzira said.
Mandiwanzira further stressed the point that if Telecel attempts to sell off company assets, it runs the risk of said transactions being perceived as fraudulent. This is due to the operator failing to settle debt regarding the its licence.
Mandiwanzira added that: “Potential investors in the business should engage Government since it was the licensing authority. Government will engage investors to negotiate for the value of the shareholding with a potential view to buy them out.”