By Chipo Musoko, HARARE, May 21 (The Source) – Telecel Zimbabwe, which is currently embroiled in a legal battle with government over its licencing and compliance with the indigenisation law, on Thursday declined to appear before a parliamentary committee because its case was before the court.
Regulator Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) cancelled the mobile phone operator’s licence on 28 April, and gave it 30 days to wind up operations and another 60 days to decommission its equipment.
Early this month, however, the firm got a temporary reprieve to continue operating after High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi suspended the cancellation pending finalisation of its legal fight with Potraz.
The parliamentary portfolio committee on Youth, Indigenization and Economic Empowerment chaired by Gokwe Nembudziya legislator, Justice Wadyajena (ZANU-PF) had summoned the company to appear before it to make a presentation on its plans to comply with the empowerment laws.
However, Telecel sent its legal representatives, Peter Mudzimiri from its legal department and Batanai Peresuh from Honey & Blanckenberg, who both declined to comment on the matter.
Peresuh asked to read out a statement from the company.
“On account that the subject matter of the committee’s portfolio is already traversed in the pending High Court matter and is sub judice, Telecel must respectfully decline further participation in this meeting,” said Peresuh, reading from the statement.
“In so doing, it needs to be emphasized that declining the invitation to participate is predicated on ethical and procedural legal grounds which we are confident the committee will appreciate. Telecel’s stance in this regards is no different from the position adopted by the Honourable Minister Supa Mandiwanzira.”
After consultation, Wadyajena adjourned the meeting for 10 minutes to enable the committee to deliberate and when it resumed, he maintained that the purpose of the meeting was for Telecel, 60 percent owned by Dutch-headquartered Vimpelcom, to address questions it had flouted Zimbabwe’s local ownership regulations.
“We thought in our opinion that the matter before the courts was about payment of licence fees and the cancellation of the licence by Potraz,” said Wadyajena.
Peresuh said he was reluctant to answer the question, but said:
“The issue before the court does not pertain to licence fees. It pertains to compliance with the licence in respect of indigenisation.”
Peresuh added: “(The issue is) compliance with the Postal and Telecommunications Act, which contains a variation of the Indigenisation Act within it. Even the licence itself contains a clause dealing with indigenisation.”
He said the issues of licencing and local majority ownership were intertwined and “so I cannot escape the fact that the issue of indigenisation is before the High Court by virtue of the fact that it is in the licence itself.”
Peresuh indicated that the board representatives would appear before the committee once the matter was finalised at the court and a determination made by the ICT minister, before whom an appeal against the Telecel licence cancellation now rested.
Wadyajena replied: “We will just wait for the finalisation from the High Court and not from the minister. The minister will not stop us from inviting the board, workers and management.”