By this point Telecel’s ownership issue are well documented and since 2015 Telecel ownership squats have been making headlines multiple times. Now it seems there might finally be a conclusion.
James Makamba returned to Zim after the ‘coup-not-coup’ in November. Shortly after his return, the former chairman of Telecel accused Gerald Mlotshwa (son-in-law to current President Mnangagwa) of claiming to have shareholding when, in fact, Mlotshwa had only acted as a representative for Makamba since he could not conduct business in Zimbabwe when he was on exile.
According to South African publication, Times Live, an extraordinary general meeting held on Thursday sealed Makamba’s fate. Makamba is believed to have sold off his remaining his shareholding:
Makamba will receive $11-million for his Telecel Zimbabwe shares. He sold off a remainder of 30.25% equity in holding company Kestrel Corporation to MHMK Group, controlled by Mlotshwa and George Manyere.
Did Makamba’s debt influence the outcome?
Makamba’s financial struggles might have led to him accepting the $11 million as it is also reported that the tycoon was failing to keep up with payments for his mansion in South Africa. Makamba reportedly owes Absa bank and due to his failure to meet payments, the bank is ready to take the tycoons $4.5 million mansion. Makamba might be in dire need of money which could be a reason to take the money and go deal with his other struggles.
Is it political?
Well, it could be. In 2005 Makamba was charged with six accounts of exchange control violations (externalisation). These charges were revived when he came back from exile only to be dropped after a court appearance on Friday. Friday! Which also happened to be a day after the shareholding issue was resolved. Could be a mere coincidence.
What’s next for Telecel?
Mlotshwa had this to say after the incident:
We will be meeting shortly with our co-shareholder, Telecel International, to map the way forward operationally, particularly in relation to recapitalisation of Telecel, which requires at least $400-million over the next three to four years, mainly for network expansion and upgrades.
It seems Mlotshwa was much relieved at the end of this outdrawn battle and focus is now turning to the future as Telecel is in dire need of funding. This was made clear by the Minister of ICT and Cybersecurity, Supa Mandiwanzira even though he cited lower figures of 30-100 million being needed back in February:
There is a huge investment that could come into Telecel in terms of expansion of the network; anything between US$30 million to US$100 million would do the company very well.
Hopefully, Telecel will now be able to focus on offering more competition to Econet and NetOne as they have been lagging behind for a while.