Government set to close Telecel network

12 Mar 2015

The government of Zimbabwe is to force the closure of the struggling mobile operator Telecel, which has been beset with ownership and financial issues. A report from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) says authorities are to finally make good on recent threats to shut down the operator. Communications minister Supa Mandiwanzira is quoted by local newspaper The Herald as saying: ‘The position of the Ministry of ICT that Telecel must cease operations because they have no licence is a position that has already been adopted by Cabinet… There is a Cabinet committee in place to now execute the decision of Cabinet.’ He went on to add: ‘Government will deal with this issue knowing that there are employees involved and also subscribers in mind. That notwithstanding, the law is the law.’

As reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate last month, Telecel, the smallest of the country’s three cellcos, is facing the cancellation of its licence after the government decided to halt an agreement allowing the operator to defer licence fee payments due since 2013. The firm is also under fire for failing to comply with legislation which requires at least 51% of its shares to be locally owned. Russian-backed 60% shareholder Vimpelcom is looking to offload its stake, while members of the Empowerment Corporation (E Corp) consortium, which collectively owns the remaining 40%, are arguing over the best course of action for their own stake. The government is now expected to force the closure of the Telecel network until the USD137 million licence fee is paid and its ownership complies with empowerment laws.

Separately, the government is finally looking to implement a new ICT Policy which has been in development since 2011. The new policy is expected to cover areas such as the creation of a new converged ICT regulator to replace the current watchdog POTRAZ. Minister Mandiwanzira says he is looking to have the draft policy presented to the Cabinet by the end of this month.

Zimbabwe, Telecel Zimbabwe