Govt gives Telecel 30 days to shut down

HARARE - ZIMBABWE’S third largest telecommunication company, Telecel, has been ordered to close down in 30 days after its operating licence was withdrawn by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz).

In a statement given to reporters on Wednesday, the telecommunications regulator gave Telecel an additional two months’ notice to decommission equipment.

“During this period, it is expected that Telecel Zimbabwe subscriber’s switch to alternative networks and those with credits on the TeleCash mobile money platform would make good their position,” said Potraz’s statement.

This comes as Telecel — owned by VimpelCom’s Cairo-based unit Global Telecom Holdings SAE — has been working with the government to resolve a dispute after Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira said the company had not made licence fee payments and failed to comply with the nation’s indigenisation regulations.

The company has since 2013 failed to pay a $137,5 million fee to renew its 20-year licence. The government had previously threatened to switch off the carrier.

Potraz said Telecel may appeal to Mandiwanzira, but emphasised that the company’s telecommunication equipment remains its property and has a choice to do what they want with the equipment.

The country’s third mobile telecommunication company, with over 2,5 million subscribers, however said the move by Potraz was “unfair and unwarranted”.

“Telecel has made every effort to comply with all legal and governmental requirements in Zimbabwe, and objects to this treatment in the strongest terms.

“Telecel and its global shareholders are taking immediate action both locally and internationally to challenge this decision,” said the company in a statement.

“Telecel would like to assure its customers and stakeholders that it will take all possible steps to maintain the full range of its services throughout this process.  We thank all our valued customers and partners for their on-going support.

“Your welfare is of the utmost importance and priority to us and we will continue to act in the interests of Zimbabwe and its people,” said Telecel.

Experts say the latest move by government will see Telecel subscribers quickly shifting to Econet Wireless, the largest mobile network, and the second largest of the three, NetOne, which is wholly-owned by the government.

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