Malawi hopes for third operator dashed

By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi

Malawians’ hopes of a third mobile phone service provider were finally dashed this week, when the Supreme Court of Appeal in Blantyre ended the lengthy court battle by allowing Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to revoke the licence of the would-be third operator.

The court dismissed an earlier ruling by the High Court that had stopped MACRA from revoking the license for cellular phone services that was awarded to Globally Advanced Networks Limited (G-Mobile).

A panel of judges, Anastanzia Msosa, Andrew Nyirenda and Robert Chinangwa, made the determination following an appeal by MACRA.

The telecommunication regulator revoked G-Mobile’s license on September 20, 2010 for failing to roll out on different occasions, even after the expiry of the first 12 months that was stipulated in the license conditions.

G-Mobile argued in an appeal against the decision that they were denied right to economic activity by the decision.

However, the panel of the three Justices of Appeal observed in their determination that G-Mobile was not denied the right to economic activity through its licence being revoked, but die to the fact that the respondent had failed to roll out after being granted several extensions.

“We are of the view that the appellant (MACRA) did not breach section 29 of the constitution by revoking the licence,” ruled the judges.

They further argued that the right to economic activity is available to honest and serious entrepreneurs not the likes of G-Mobile.

“This ground is decided in favour of the appellant. The ruling of the lower court is reversed and the revocation of the respondent’s licence is reinstated,” said Msosa, who read the ruling on behalf of the other judges.

According to court records, G-Mobile was initially given 12 months to roll out its services that spanned from March 20, 2009 the day it was awarded to March 19, 2010.

However, by mutual consent the two parties later agreed to reduce the period, to 10 months  and consequently wrote a letter to G-Mobile on January reminding it of the forthcoming deadlines.

The records also indicate that G-Mobile was granted two extensions of 56 days and four months respectively which was followed by a fine of US$6,950 which the company challenged at the Mzuzu High Court until it lost the licence by revocation   

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