Econet reverses termination decision
By Alfronce Mbizwo, Harare, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s Econet Wireless reversed its decision to terminate interconnection services to state-owned rival NetOne over a USD20 million debt, after the latter challenged the move at the High Court on Thursday night.
High Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo expressed concern about the inconvenience caused to the public in a case brought under a certificate of urgency, but did not issue an order for or against the move by Econet.
Econet rescinded its decision soon after. Earlier, it had disconnected NetOne citing the refusal by the later to settle the outstanding debt from 2009. It also accused NetOne of repudiating an interconnection agreement between the two mobile service providers.
Econet lawyer Harrison Nkomo said Econet’s decision to restore services to NetOne was unilateral.
“Econet has taken a unilateral decision to reconnect NetOne considering both the negative impact on the subscribers and the unreasonable stance that NetOne took of disregarding the impact of the disconnection,” said Nkomo.
Collin Kuhuni representing NetOne respectively said the legal wrangle was not over as the matter will be heard in court in due course.
“The basic position is that the chairman of Econet, Tawanda Nyambirai has agreed to reconnect NetOne immediately and he has been given a postponement . . . to enable Econet to file their response to our application,” said Kuhuni.
At the High Court, Kuhuni said NetOne was seeking an order compelling Econet to immediately reconnect it. “We believe that the decision to disconnect us unilaterally was illegal,” he said.
The Permanent secretary in the parent Ministry of Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development, Munesu Munodawafa, said it was too early for Government to comment on the matter, adding that the regulator, Potraz, was handling the dispute.
“The interconnection of services between networks is a legal issue and Potraz is dealing with it,” he said. We cannot usurp Potraz’s powers because they have a legal provision to deal with the matter. We will talk to Potraz first before we comment.”
But Potraz director-general Charles Sibanda said they wanted the government to address the matter first.
“Every licencee is expected to interconnect. This is an issue that involves the shareholder and we will wait for the parent ministry (Transport, Communication and Infrastructural Development) to react to it first.
“The law is very clear that if the two companies fail to agree on interconnection agreement they have to come to the regulator. On the issue of debts, we have nothing to do with them. If they fail to agree they can go to the Arbitration Court.”