Vodacom accused of using political, diplomatic pressure to combat fixer

2 May 2012

According to a report by MyBroadband.co.za, South Africa’s Vodacom Group stands accused of using political and diplomatic pressure in its ongoing legal battle with former consultant Moto Mabanga. In March Vodacom was ordered by a Kinshasa court to pay Mabanga USD21 million after losing a court appeal over a so-called ‘success fee’ dating back to 2008. Mabanga, who was hired by the company to assist in negotiations with co-owner Congolese Wireless Networks (CWN) between 2007 and 2008, was paid USD2.8 million for the work, but sued the company for a further USD40.8 million that he believes he is owed.

A lawyer representing Mabanga has now sent letters to the general inspectorate of judicial council services in Kinshasa as well as the UK’s ambassador in the DRC, stating that Vodacom – which is owned by UK-based Vodafone Group – is trying to place itself above the laws of the country. The correspondence followed the distribution of a letter sent by Vodacom to the inspectorate that was copied to the South African and British ambassadors. One of Mabanga’s lawyers, Emery Mukendi Wafwana, urged the British ambassador not to interfere in the matter, pointing out that the UK was a partner with the DRC in establishing an investment climate in the country and it should not get involved, unless it believes the DRC is allowed to intervene in legal disputes in the UK.

For his part, Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman told MyBroadband.co.za: ‘There is zero legal justification for Mr Mabanga’s contractual claim and we challenge him to provide one shred of evidence to support it. We keep in regular touch with officials and embassies in all of the countries in which we operate. Both South African and the UK companies are major investors in the DRC and it’s a common-sense step to keep officials apprised of a situation that is already tarnishing the reputation of the DRC and has the potential to jeopardise further investment from both countries.’

Congo, Dem. Rep., Vodacom Congo (DRC), Vodacom Group