Pressure is mounting on Telecel, the smallest of Zimbabwe’s three mobile network operators (MNOs), to begin paying off outstanding licence fees and government debts. According to a report from Business Times, Telecel still owes USD90.65 million of the USD137.5 million licence renewal fee which was meant to be paid in instalments from 2013 to 2020. This includes missed payments of USD15 million and USD20 million from 2017 and 2018 respectively. According to a letter seen by the newspaper, at 30 November 2018 the cellco also owed another USD2.9 million in monthly and other fees.
Telecel’s CEO, Angeline Vere, remains optimistic that the outstanding fees can be repaid, telling Business Times: ‘At the moment, with various ongoing efforts to recapitalise the company, and the gradual improvement in our financial performance, we have reason to believe we will be able to meet the requirements expected of us.’ She added: ‘We have obviously been affected by the downturn in the economy like any other organisation in this economy, but we are in constant communication with the regulatory authorities to explore ways of ensuring we comply as expected.’
Telecel is 60%-owned by the government of Zimbabwe, with the remainder held by local investment group Empowerment Corporation. It is steadily losing subscribers while rival operators Econet Wireless and NetOne manage to increase their own customer bases.
Meanwhile, a boardroom battle has exploded at Telecel, with some members calling for Vere to step down for failing to implement a turnaround strategy and not consulting the board when renewing major service level agreements with vendors. One of her main critics, board member and ex-CEO Francis Mawindi, was suspended last week for allegedly leaking confidential company information.