StarTimes DRC not going anywhere, says top official

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Kinshasa, DR Congo

The StarTimes DRC drama is far from over. Just two days after being told by a government minister to stop operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), StarTimes DRC yesterday embarked on a huge media offensive, saying that it will not budge because it has all the documentation allowing it to operate here.

StarTimes DRC boss Philippe Zou Lou slammed ‘certain’ Congolese authorities for what he called a series of injustice and harassment his company has been subjected to since it launched in July 2013.

Minister of posts, telecoms and ICTs, Kin-Kiey Mulumba, said mid-week that he has been given instructions by Prime Minister Matata Ponyo to withdraw StarTimes’ licence because it was operating illegally in the country and ‘stealing’ frequencies.

But Zou Lou exhibited a couple of papers, one of which apparently showing that the pay TV operator paid US$25 000 for the broadcasting licence. The regulator also addressed a letter to the minister, informing him that the frequencies made available to StarTimes were only for a temporary period.

“We have been operating here since 2013 and we currently have many subscribers and employed many people. We are being accused of not paying taxes since 2013. It’s not true. We have been paying taxes since last year and we abide by the laws of this country,” he said.

“We are not closing down and we are not going anywhere because we have been granted permission to operate here by the regulator, ARPTC,” Zou Lou said.

Biztechafrica visited a couple of StarTimes branches around the capital Kinshasa, and found that it was business as usual as the staff carried on with their tasks as if nothing happened.

Earlier on, (Thursday night), StarTimes DRC public relations director Rodrigue Kalombo went on national TV to confirm that the documents allowing StarTimes to partner with public broadcaster RTNC were signed by Lambert Mende, the minister of media and communication, who controls all broadcasting aspects in this Central African nation.

A few weeks ago, Mende was seen defending StarTimes and slamming Mulumba for interfering in other ministers’ duties.

“Our doors are still open all over the country and we are not budging,” Kalombo said.

 

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