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Investors to Meet Zimbabwe Officials Over Cancelled Telecel License

Telecel says the move by POTRAZ is unfair, adding it will appeal the decision and do everything it can both locally and internationally to continue operating.

Telecel Zimbabwe’s international investors are meeting the Zimbabwe government tomorrow over the cancelation of the company’s operation license last week as millions of people are set to be affected by this move.

Giving oral evidence on the status of the telecommunications company to parliament’s Information and Communication Technology Portfolio Committee, Information, Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, said the license was cancelled for failure to comply with a shareholding requirement giving locals power to own a 51 percent stake in the firm.

Telecel International currently has 60 percent shareholding in Telecel Zimbabwe while the other 40 percent is owned by locals through the Empowerment Corporation.

This, he said, was illegal and Telecel Zimbabwe had failed to comply with the law despite being allowed to operate with the anomaly for 15 years.

He, however, said despite the cancellation, the company can seek judicial recourse or appeal to him to be allowed to operate like what they did when the license was cancelled in 2007.

He said it was worrying that Telecel had taken long to settle part of the $14 million which they had agreed to pay as a deposit of the $137 million required to renew their license in 2013.

He said the best way for Telecel to get back their license was to comply with the country’s laws.

But committee chairman, Nelson Chamisa, and members of his committee told Mandiwanzira that the government’s decision was not in the interest of the public as more than 1,000 workers will be left jobless while government would also lose millions in potential tax revenues.

Telecel says it has paid more than $100 million to government in taxes since 2009. Mandiwanzira noted that he would consider the concerns of the lawmakers if Telecel Zimbabwe makes a formal appeal.

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Telecel has more than 2 million subscribers and Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has given the company 30 days to switch to other networks before the Telecel network is be shut down.

In Harare today, journalists also today bemoaned government’s disregard of press and media freedom, saying despite a constitution that guarantees these, repressive media laws remain on the country’s statute books.

In belated World Press Freedom Day commemorations organized by the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Media commissioner and media lawyer, Chris Mhike, said it’s worrying that Zimbabwe still has repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Political analyst, Ibbo Mandaza, told the gathering that while the constitution clearly stipulates that the public media must freely determine their editorial policy, government is breaching the constitution by interfering in the operations of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and the Zimbabwe Newspapers company.

Zimbabwe Independent editor, Dumisani Muleya, added that the discord in government over criminal defamation laws is worrying.

Muleya said while political interference into the operations of the media has persisted over the years also worrying was the manipulation of the media by commercial companies.

World Press Freedom Day is commemorated worldwide on May 3. This year’s event was held yesterday under the theme ‘Let Journalism Thrive: Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality and Media Safety in the Digital Age.’