Congolese court rejects Vodacom appeal; SA firm ordered to pay consultant USD21m


South Africa’s Vodacom Group has been ordered to pay former consultant Moto Mabanga USD21 million after losing an appeal in a Democratic Republic of Congo court, Bloomberg reports. Mabanga told the news agency: ‘The judgment is now final. I have a judgment and will now follow the legal process to recover the funds from Vodacom. We are now trying to identify Vodacom’s assets to attach them, if it comes to that’. In January this year a Kinshasa court ordered Vodacom to pay Mabanga – who was hired by the company to assist in negotiations with co-owner Congolese Wireless Networks (CWN) between 2007 and 2008 – USD21 million, plus 8% interest (per year). Mabanga was paid USD2.8 million for the work, but sued the company for a USD40.8 million ‘success fee’ that he believes he is entitled to. For its part, Vodacom was reluctant to accept the court’s decision, with spokesman Richard Boorman commenting: ‘We have not received the judgment on this matter so it is difficult to comment in detail. We would clearly have material objections to any judgment by a Congo court in which a monetary award was granted … while the contractual dispute is currently being heard in court in South Africa, which has jurisdiction on the issue.’

The development marks the latest in a long line of Congolese setbacks for the South African giant; Vodacom is also embroiled in a long-standing dispute with its local partner CWN regarding the funding and structure of the venture. With the two so far unable to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion, and the case progressing slowly through courts in South Africa, DRC and Brussels, Vodacom has raised the possibility of selling its stake in the company. Fellow South Africans MTN and Angola’s Unitel have both expressed an interest in acquiring the stake, should Vodacom go ahead with the sale.