Mugabe to cancel Telecel license, re-issues to nephew Leo Mugbe

HARARE – A shadow Zanu PF Zimbabwean black empowerment group which seeks a controlling stake in Telecel, the nation’s second-ranked mobile provider, has asked President Robert Mugabe to tip the balance in a corporate battle between Egyptian investors and local players.\r\n

Sources said President Mugabe’s nephew, Leo Mugabe, has approached the president and asked him to issue a new Telecel license to his group, the Zimbabwe Wealth Creation and Empowerment Council. That’s an umbrella for the Affirmative Action Group, the Indigenous Business Women’s Organization, the National Miners Association, the Zimbabwe War Veterans Association and several other organizations.

Sources informed on the situation said Leo Mugabe claims that this group has a right to purchase a majority stake in Telecel Zimbabwe as agreed when the company was set up. At present, Telecel Globe of Egypt holds a 60 percent stake.

Ousted Telecel Chairwoman Jane Mutasa told Parliament today that Telecel is operating without a license and many top Telecel officials, including James Makamba, another former chairman, are based outside Zimbabwe at present.

Telecel Chief Commercial Officer Anwar Soussa said the provider is doing business as usual despite the wrangle. “I cannot say anything about Telecel shares but in terms of conducting business, we are operating and exploring more opportunities,” he said.

Economic commentator Walter Mbongolwane said Leo Mugabe is trying to seize Telecel from its rightful owners through manipulation of Zimbabwe’s indigenization laws.

“We are waiting to see what will happen to this company which is being targeted by indigenous groups that are fully aware of the huge benefits of a telecommunications entity in the mobile phone sector,” Mbongolwane told reporter Gibbs Dube.

Local empowerment groups have called on the government to award them the operations licence of Telecel Zimbabwe, claiming that they are the rightful owners of the mobile network company.

The Telecel ownership wrangle has surged to greater heights following the announcements by the Zimbabwe Wealth Creation and Empowerment Council (ZWCEC) that they are the rightful owners of the company.

Addressing journalists in Harare, Affirmative Action Group (AAG) Executive Director, Dr Davison Gomo said if there is going to be a re-licensing of Telecel, ZWCEC must be holders of the licence as they are the rightful owners of the a 60% stake as was the status quo in 1996.

“The licence must be given to us to restore our position of 1996 and also in line with 51-49% threshold stipulated in the indigenisation policy,” Dr Gomo argued.

Engineer Leo Mugabe, who is the technical advisor to ZWCEC said local groups were muscled off their stake by exiled businessman, James Makamba who sold the shares without their consent.

“James Makamba told media that he owns 84% of Telecel and we were surprised he sold our 20% without our consent so who ever bought the shares bought stolen property and the owners want it, Engineer Mugabe said.

Telecel has been facing ownership wrangles for the past 6 years, which has led to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) cancelling the mobile operator’s licence.

ZWCEC claims that it owned 60% of the company, making them the rightful owners and have said they are willing to engage with Telecel on how the international company can be assisted to get back their money from the fraudster.

Questions have also been raised over the company’s appointments of foreign managers yet Zimbabwe has capable human capital as evidenced by the other two mobile operators.

ZWCEC, which was formed in 1996, consist of groups across the economic sphere including farmers, miners, engineers and war veterans is an institution striving to spearhead the vision of indigenisation and economic empowerment.

Shareholder Jane Mutasa says the company is now dominated by foreigners at the expense of unemployed locals and admitted the local consortium had lost control.

Mutasa said this when she appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media and Communication yesterday, which sought to establish the shareholding structure of Telecel.

She alleged that the infiltration of Telecel by foreigners was part of the machination of exiled businessman James Makamba, as a ploy to prevent Zimbabweans from getting executive positions and shares in Telecel.

“James Makamba of late has embarked on an anti-Zimbabwean top executive drive by firing and in some instances causing malicious arrests of Zimbabwean top executives and replacing them with foreigners of Egyptian descent in areas or professions which are, according to the government of Zimbabwe, non-critical areas,” said Mutasa.

“One wonders how all the foreigners stashed at Telecel Zimbabwe head office get their visas or employment permits.”

Mutasa, who was speaking under oath, told the committee she suspected her signature had been forged in some of the letters written to ask the immigration department to extend work permits for the foreigners.

Bright Matonga, the committee chairman, produced letters that had Mutasa’s signatures asking the immigration department to extend work permits of the foreigners employed at Telecel. Mutasa replied that the signatures were probably forged as she had been suspended from Telecel when they were signed.

Although Mutasa still maintains she is the Telecel board chairperson, she told the committee she could not discuss her court battles with Telecel International because the issue was sub judice, adding she was being victimised for resisting Telecel International’s reluctance to involve indigenous Zimbabweans in its business.

“These Egyptians are very stubborn and right now they are in the country,” Mutasa told the committee.
Mutasa also accused Makamba of swindling the Zimbabwe Wealth Creation and Empowerment Council (ZWCEC) of its shares. She said Makamba had gone behind other shareholders’ backs and sold 20% of shares secretly.

“We were shocked to learn that James Makamba, through his company Kestrel Corporation Private Limited, unprocedurally purchased such shares,” said Mutasa.

ZWCEC invested in Telecel through an investment vehicle Empowerment Corporation.
Mutasa said according to Article 7 of the Company’s Article of Association, “any shareholder wishing to dispose of all or any share in the company shall by written notice offer the same for sale through directors of the company, such shares shall in the first instance be offered to other holders in proportion to the shareholding in terms of Article 5.

“Makamba has departed from the spirit of oneness the shareholders used to have at the time of the licence and in a bid to feed his own ego. He has hijacked Telecel Zimbabwe and has made it his own individual property where shareholders cannot go or derive any benefit from it,” she said.