MTN, SPTC feud rumbles on; ‘clandestine’ takeover plot uncovered

5 Oct 2011

The board of directors of the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) has reportedly made a number of serious allegations against its own representatives at MTN Swaziland, indicating that they are complicit in the South African-owned telecoms giant’s plans to initiate a takeover of the company, which currently operates in the dual role of fixed line incumbent and telecoms regulator. According to the Times of Swaziland, citing documents in its possession, the accusations were aired on 19 August during an SPTC presentation before the ongoing Parliament Select Committee, which was charged with investigating the hostility between the SPTC and MTN. The document suggests that ‘clandestine moves within the government have been made to make sure that SPTC fails at all costs, and does not get the support it deserves as a government parastatal’. The five SPTC representatives at MTN Swaziland that have been implicated in the scheme to destabilise the incumbent include: Senator Winnie Magagula, businessman Walter Bennett, Moses Zungu, Nokuthula Mthembu and Mfanasibili Ndlovu.

The damning statement alleges: ‘The Swaziland government seems to be hell-bent to make sure that MTN does as it will in this country, and gets unprecedented support from the government to make sure that SPTC does not survive. Our own people are supporting MTN in making sure that SPTC fails and is forced to close shop. It is no secret that MTN would like to see SPTC fail, and word has it that MTN is interested in taking over SPTC but at very little purchase value. The members representing SPTC at Swazi MTN have done nothing to indicate that they are interested in the survival of SPTC, and SPTC believes it is being failed by its own people. The dispute between SPTC and MTN appears to be fuelled by some quarters of our own government. The government has come out to claim that SPTC is run by a mafia, without being specific as to what it means. Such a public statement to come from the government is very disappointing when SPTC has done all it can to make sure that the company continues to operate and avoid job losses. The bullying of the MD to cancel the agreement with SEACOM without a valid reason forms the basis of SPTC’s request to the Honourable House to intervene and assist SPTC in the restoration of good corporate governance in the parastatal’.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, South Africa-based MTN Group holds a 30% stake in MTN Swaziland, whilst local investment firm Swaziland Empowerment Group retains a 19% stake in the cellco. Until 1Q11 the remaining 51% was owned by the SPTC, although the incumbent has repeatedly claimed that it had transferred its shareholding to the Ministry of Finance (41%) and King Mswati III (10%), in order to pave the way for its own independent entry into the wireless sector.

Eswatini, MTN Eswatini