South Africa Vodacom denies political pressure over BEE deal

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Vodacom is not under political pressure and will ensure its multibillion-rand black economic empowerment (BEE) deal is truly broad-based. This is according to Vodacom group CEO Alan Knott-Craig, who says: “It is important to stress that the majority of the participants in the Vodacom BEE transaction will be Vodacom staff and ordinary black South African citizens, not simply a few prominent individuals.”

Knott-Craig's assurance comes in the wake of fears that the long-delayed BEE deal is being plagued by political tensions related to the former director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka. Ngcuka's Amandla Amoya consortium is believed to be one of the preferred bidders for the R7.5 billion deal, with ANC insiders saying this does not sit well with the ruling party.

However, Knott-Craig says: “There has been no political pressure brought to bear upon Vodacom at all and Vodacom in turn has not placed any such pressure on any potential parties to the Vodacom BEE transaction.”

He states that, despite what anyone else may be saying, no preferred group or bidders have been identified as yet. However, he emphasises that one of Vodacom's main objectives with the proposed BEE deal is “to achieve broad-based economic empowerment ownership among previously-disadvantaged South Africans, particularly black citizens. The meaningful role of our staff, as well as the proposed public offer, will ensure Vodacom meets this objective.

“In addition, we have embarked on a robust and objective partner selection process, managed together with RMB, to identify credible strategic partners, who will assist Vodacom in furthering Vodacom's transformation, skills and capacity-building programmes.”

Knott-Craig would not comment on any specific bidders in the tendering process, quoting confidentiality agreements. However, he says once preferred strategic partners have been identified, they will be disclosed to the market.