The situation at NetOne seems to have gone into overdrive and with the current CEO – Lazarus Muchenje- having now sued the ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira and The Office of The President we were quite alarmed by the fact that the law firm representing Mr Muchenje has a very interesting ownership and we couldn’t help but feel there might be some conflicting interests on this one.
The court application image we got claims the law firm taking care of the case is Titan Law Firm. This law firm belongs to Gerald Mlotshwa who also happens to be a major shareholder in Telecel (going through its fair share of ownership wrangles) and more importantly is also the son-in-law of President Emmerson Mnangagwa who happens to be the boss of Supa Mandiwanzira.
What do other professionals say?
Attempts to reach the Law Society of Zimbabwe get a comment from them concerning whether or not there may be conflicting interests were futile and if they do respond we will update this article accordingly.
We did however speak to another lawyer to understand what problems may potentially arise from Mlothswa’s firm taking this case and he highlighted two situations:
- Supa Mandiwanzira is a Minister and the fact that he is being sued also means the Office of The President is being sued as well. Is it proper that the applicant’s (Muchenje) legal representative also happens to be related to the President.
- Depending on the current state of the shareholding issue at Telecel there is potential malice. If during Telecel’s ownership strangles, Mlotshwa felt that the ICT Minister acted in an unfavourable manner towards him (Mlotshwa is) he may have a score to settle and taking this case may afford him a chance to do so.
It’s a sticky mess
The points raised by the lawyer do actually raise some questions. With Mlotshwa being a relative of the President indeed and having his firm take this case one of the questions that we have to ask are; will Mlotshwa do his best to make sure that he defends Lazarus Muchenje who is suing The Office of his Father-In-Law.
Secondly, Mlotshwa has some shareholding in Telecel so you wonder whether or not he could use the information from this case to attempt to force Mandiwanzira’s hand in the on-going shareholding dispute. Mandiwanzira is the ICT Minister and can also appoint the Chairman of POTRAZ (who regulates both Telecel and NetOne) whilst the government has an ownership stake in Telecel, making him a very influential individual in the telecoms industry.
Mlotshwa may not do any of the above and conduct business in a professional manner but these are all lingering questions that would not have been raised if all these connections were not already in the picture.
[Update] In an earlier version of this article we noted Mandiwanzira as being the Chairman of POTRAZ when in fact we wanted to state that he has power to appoint the chairman. We apologize for that oversight and we have corrected it.
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