The Zambian government has reportedly taken control of the country’s monopoly fixed line operator Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel), reversing the hotly-debated June 2010 sale of the telco to Libya’s LAP Green Network. As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in November 2011 the country’s president, Michael Sata, who assumed office just two months earlier, announced that the sale of Zamtel to LAP Green could be reversed following an inquiry which found that the telco was illegally sold. The Libyan company acquired 75% of Zamtel in June 2010 for USD257 million amidst widespread criticism that the transaction was not transparent. Sata had pledged in his electoral campaign to investigate the deal, saying that the sale was carried out for the benefit of officials in the previous government.
In the most recent development regarding the matter, the BBC states that Mupanga Mwanakatwe, an Airtel executive, has been appointed as Zamtel’s chairman and acting chief executive office, and it is expected that a new board for the telco will be put in place shortly. It is understood that Zamtel services, both wireline and wireless, have not been disrupted, and President Sata has said that no job losses are expected at the operator.
With Zamtel’s bank accounts having been frozen last week as part of a money-laundering investigation, and on the back of the announcement that the state was retaking control of the telco, unsurprisingly LAP Green has said that it is ‘deeply worried’ by the turn of events. The Libyan company has firmly rejected all allegations of corruption regarding its purchase of Zamtel, stating: ‘Our acquisition was made through an open, transparent and competitive bidding process … Under our ownership, Zamtel has moved from a state of near insolvency to become a national success story.’