Telecel Zimbabwe now has close to a million subscribers, the company’s international partner, Telecel Globe, revealed on Thursday. Telecel Globe chief executive Kai Uebach told a media briefing in Harare that Telecel Zimbabwe had invested heavily in developing its network. It was rolling out in the region of 170 base stations countrywide.
He said the quality of the network signal, which in the past had been poor, was now good. Telecel had also invested heavily in stabilising the network, through investing in generators and batteries so that the network could continue operating well even during prolonged periods without mains electricity.
Mr Uebach denied there had been any externalisation of funds. Base stations and other equipment that was not manufactured in Zimbabwe had to be purchased from outside the country, he said. It was purchased at competitive prices.
He expressed surprise that former acting chairperson Jane Mutasa should have been quoted in Press reports as making the allegations of externalisation, since she had, he said, as a board member, signed all procurement contracts.
The Telecel Globe chief executive attributed the huge rise in Telecel subscribers to the company’s reduction in the price of SIM cards to two dollars, including one dollar’s worth of air time.
He mentioned too Telecel’s lowering of the cost of international calls to countries where there were substantial numbers of Zimbabweans. He pointed out that both these moves had benefited ordinary Zimbabweans considerably.
Mr Uebach said he had met with the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and government ministers to assure them that Telecel Globe would comply with legal requirements for it to reduce its shareholding to 49 percent.
He pointed out that there were economic considerations to be taken into account. Often in partnerships between local and international companies it was the international company that secured the funds for expansion. Telecel Globe had secured much of the funds Telecel Zimbabwe had required for its growth.
Telecel Globe needed to look at ways of reducing its majority shareholding that would still enable Telecel Zimbabwe to continue to develop. He indicated that his preference would be to go public, floating the company on the stock exchange. He said there were various advantages to doing this, including the fact that stock exchange rules ensured transparency.
He confirmed that the Empowerment Corporation, the local shareholder in Telecel Zimbabwe, had pre-emptive rights and would be given the first option to purchase Telecel Globe shares at the market rate. He emphasised that it was the Empowerment Corporation and not individual members of the corporation that enjoyed these pre-emptive rights.
He said the Telecel Zimbabwe Board had decided in principle to develop a stock option for employees, as this would be a motivational force and allow them to benefit from the company’s success. Mr Uebach said there was a generally good relationship between Telecel Globe and the Empowerment Corporation.
He confirmed that information uncovered by Telecel Zimbabwe’s auditors in relation to a fraud of between US$1,7 million and two million United States dollars, had been handed over to the police. Nowhere in the world, he said, could a fraud of that nature be tolerated. “It was the unanimous decision of the board that this had to be prosecuted,” he said.
Telecel Zimbabwe has become the second largest mobile operator after Econet Wireless Zimbabwe which currently has over three million subscribers.