Zimbabwe: Telecel Under Fire Over Shareholder Structure

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Telecel Zimbabwe has come under fire for being slow in regularising its shareholding structure, which is heavily skewed in favour of foreigners.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology, chaired by Nketa Member of the House of Assembly Seiso Moyo, said it was concerned about Telecel's management and shareholding structure. .

Moyo criticised Telecel Zimbabwe managing director Aimable Mpore, a Rwandese, saying even the management structure was dominated by foreigners. He said it was more prudent to second Zimbabweans to other countries where they could gain the required expertise on new technology than to bring in foreigners to run the firm. Moyo was responding to Mr Mpore's claims that they seconded foreigners because Zimbabwe lacked expertise in "some" technological fields.

Uzumba MP Simba Mudarikwa asked the company for an update on the their licence, which was revoked by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe over the same issues.

In response, Mpore said his company supported Zimbabwe's indigenisation laws. "We are here as management and our responsibility is to run the company, I can't answer on behalf of shareholders. It's up to the shareholders and the Government - whatever they say we will comply with," said Mpore.

In her contribution, company secretary Ms Angeline Vere said Telecel Zimbabwe had appealed against a decision by Potraz to Transport, Communications and Infrastructural Development Minister Nicholas Goche against the decision to cancel their licence.

She said there had been correspondence to the parent ministry as well as to the Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere regarding their roadmap to indigenisation.

"We were asked to write an implementation plan," she said. "Pursuant to that, we have since responded. One of the options was to consider listing but it was said listing was not a good option because the shares can be bought by foreigners."

Ms Vere said the two shareholders had agreed that Telecel International would nominate the chief executive officer while the Empowerment Corporation would nominate the chairperson of the firm.

Mrs Jane Mutasa, representing the Empowerment Corporation, was suspended as the Telecel chairperson last year on allegations of misappropriating of funds. The company is yet to appoint a replacement.

Turning to operational issues, Mpore said while the law provided that telecommunication service firms could share base stations, some of the companies had refused to co-operate in this regard. "We have worked well with TelOne and Econet in sharing towers. NetOne has dismantled our equipment just because the facilities belong to them," said Mpore.

He said NetOne should have approached them and asked them to pay rent if necessary.
"For site-sharing to happen there has to be an enforcement and that cannot be done by operators. As Telecel, we welcome the sharing, but it's not the view of other players."
He said one reason why some players resisted sharing was that they feared losing their competitive advantage.

The Telecel boss said the Universal Services Fund administered by Potraz, should be used in making lawful interception of communications rather than have players bankroll the exercise.