HARARE, May 5 (The Source) – Telecel Zimbabwe on Tuesday refuted claims that it had failed to pay for its licence renewal, maintaining that it had paid government a total of $14 million.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) last week cancelled the mobile phone operator’s licence with effect from 28 April, and gave it 30 days to wind up operations and another 60 days to decommission its equipment.
Information Communication Technology and Courier Services minister Supa Mandiwanzira told Parliament on Monday the telecoms firm had failed to comply with local ownership requirements despite constant warnings and reminders over the past 15 years. Mandiwanzira said Telecel had also violated its licence renewal fee payment plan with the government.
He said the Telecel, government and Potraz had agreed to a payment plan for the firm to pay the $137,5 million over an extended period. In terms of that agreement, Telecel would pay a commitment fee of $14 million upon signing the deal, with the balance being cleared over a period of seven years.
However, according to Mandiwanzira, Telecel only paid $8 million and took 19 months to pay the outstanding $6 million.
“The truth is that Telecel is currently in compliance with its obligations as per the Licence Renewal Agreement entered into between Telecel, Potraz the regulator and the Government of Zimbabwe as represented by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport & Communications,” said Telecel in a statement on Tuesday.
The company said that it had negotiated with government to offset the licence fees against $12 million worth of interconnection fees owed by Telone and Net-One and that an agreement was reached and signed on 6 August 2013.
“The Agreement entailed payment of an immediate lump sum of $14 million in addition to using debt accrued from the government telecommunications operators on interconnect fees to offset part of the (licence) fees. This debt amounted to $12 million. The balance would be payable in installments over a period of 7 years,” read the statement.
Telecel said part of the payment of $6 million was not honoured by its bank, Metbank and that the bank had written to the finance ministry accepting responsibility for the payment delay.
“Telecel has honoured all subsequent licence fees payment obligations as per the agreed payment plan and is currently up to date. The next installment is due in June of this year,” read the statement.
The company is set to meet with the ministry officials over -compliance with the country’s indigenisation laws and licences fees.
Dutch-headquartered communications firm VimpelCom owns 60 percent of Telecel with the remaining 40 percent being controlled by Empowerment Corporation (EC), a local consortium.