Plot thickens in DRC as confusion over Vodacom shares continues

2 Jul 2012

Moto Mabanga, the former consultant behind the ongoing attempts to sue Vodacom DRC over an unpaid so-called ‘success fee’ dating back to 2008, has intensified his war of words with the South African-owned cellco, the Mail & Guardian reports. 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, has now accused the Vodacom Group of sending senior executive Nkateko ‘Snakes’ Nyoka to the DRC to petition the acting judge president of the supreme court, Pungwe Massua, to prevent the auctioning of Vodacom’s shares. Vodacom denies the accusation, but admits that Nyoka, its head of legal and regulatory affairs, flew to the DRC on 1 June to brief its legal counsel.

In March this year Vodacom was ordered to pay Mabanga USD21 million after losing a court appeal, but the company maintained its reluctance to adhere to any legal decisions dictated by the Kinshasa court, indicating that the initial contracts between itself and Mabanga stated that any disputes arising would be resolved under South African jurisdiction. However, later that month the commercial court issued an order for Vodacom’s 510,000 shares in Vodacom DRC to be seized and auctioned off on 3 June, although the planned auction was abruptly cancelled in the days leading up to sale. Mabanga’s lawyers have now written a ‘strongly worded’ letter to the supreme court, claiming that Judge Massua has acted ‘illegally’ and demanded an investigation; Mabanga also claims that the police locked the gates to the court so that the auction could not take place as planned.

Vodacom troubleshooter Nkateko ‘Snakes’ Nyoka is no stranger to controversy himself. The former MTN executive is alleged to have signed a fax that was sent by former MTN commercial director Irene Charnley in November 2004 to the head of Sairan, an arms manufacturer owned by Iran’s Ministry of Defence. For his part Nyoka has denied any knowledge of the document, whilst MTN continues to deny allegations that it bribed Iranian and South African government officials in order to secure the licence to become Iran’s second mobile phone operator back in 2005; the accusations have been made by Turkish mobile giant Turkcell, which was ignominiously stripped of Iran’s second cellular licence in 2005.

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