Swaziland; SPTC, MTN in war of words over blackout


The recent cellphones blackout has given birth to a fresh war of words between giant companies, the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunication Corporation (SPTC) and Swazi MTN.

The two companies are currently embroiled in a legal battle over the One Fixed mobile phones launched by SPTC. MTN is contesting that SPTC cannot run a similar project as theirs before clearing certain things that involve sale of its (SPTC) shares with MTN. Last weekend, the country experienced a blackout that somehow was placed squarely on SPTC’s laps. MTN further apologised to its customers over the blackout.

“SPTC wishes to unequivocally disassociate itself from Swazi MTN’s network outage experienced on Saturday. The statement issued by Swazi MTN imputing that the outage was as a result of a break in the SPTC backbone link between Mbabane and Matsapha is wholly inaccurate and lacks any basis whatsoever,” reads the statement in part.

SPTC management stated that they were not privy to reasons behind Swazi MTN’s unfounded assertion.
“However, we are cognisant of the detrimental effects the statement has on the image of SPTC as a telecommunications service provider both domestically and globally”. There was no immediate comment from MTN.

In April High Court Judge Bheki Maphalala declared that there is not a conflict of interest in the SPTC entering the retail market as it was no longer a shareholder in MTN Swaziland, having recently transferred its 41% shareholding to the Ministry of Finance. Further, Maphalala indicated that the SPTC has shed its regulatory responsibilities, handing them over to the government’s Ministry of Communications. In January the SPTC provoked MTN’s ire when it denied the cellco a 3G licence despite the fact that the network had successfully been trialled during the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) summit in August 2010. No reason was provided for the licence refusal.