One of Lesotho’s leading telecom operators, Vodacom Lesotho, has launched an appeal against the Lesotho Communications Authority’s (LCA) directive that telecom operators must seek the regulator's approval before appointing any senior officials.

“Vodacom Lesotho has launched an appeal to have reviewed and set aside the Lesotho Communications Authority’s (“LCA”) directive seeking to confer on the LCA the power to approve the appointment of directors, officers, senior officials and auditors of companies holding unified licenses in the communications sector,” a Vodacom spokesperson told Biztech Africa on Tuesday this week.

“Vodacom Lesotho continues to be committed to in-country regulatory compliance and to achieving the highest standards of corporate governance and citizenship by adhering to all applicable laws in Lesotho,” the company said.

Last week, in LCA’s latest move to clamp down on the telecom sector in Lesotho, the Lesotho Communications Authority mandated that telecom operators are now required to obtain prior written approval from the regulator before making appointments of officials, which include auditors.

“All holders of unified licenses shall obtain prior written approval of the Authority before appointing directors; chief executive officers; chief technology officers; chief financial officers; chief operations officers; human resource managers; company secretaries; head of legal; head of compliance; head of marketing and public relations; head of commercial and sales; chief internal auditors and chief information officers,” said LCA CEO Mamarame Matela in a letter dated 10 November 2020 sent to Econet Lesotho and Vodacom Lesotho.

Matela's letter also stated that all existing officers shall within three months of issuance submit their applications for approval accompanied by comprehensive curriculum vitae indicating relevant qualifications, experience in their current roles including certificates of registration with relevant professional bodies where applicable.

Matela's letter also quoted some sections of the Communications Act 2012, which seemed to indicate the provisions the directive was based on.

Sour relations

Relations between LCA and the two telecom operators have been frosty for the past five years, culminating with the LCA threatening to revoke Vodacom Lesotho’s license in September this year and imposing a M134 million ($2,1 million) fine over Vodacom Lesotho's non-compliance with the provisions of the latter's license - a failure to appoint independent auditors between 2015 and 2019.

The regulator also fined Econet Lesotho $90 000 in October this year for late license renewal.

For the past two decades, Lesotho maintained a licensing regime that maintained a closed market for unified licenses, thereby allowing only two unified licensees within the market. There was also  limited opportunities for competitors to enter the market, as they could only apply for a license by invitation from the regulator.

Earlier this month, the LCA announced that it opened up the telecom market and that anyone who had a solid business plan could apply for a license to operate a telecoms service in Lesotho. There were no other entry requirements imposed – such as the regulator's invitation – in this announcement.

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