Yesterday the High Court of Zimbabwe issued an order for the Sheriff of the High Court and lawyers of Dr Dish (PVT) LTD to search several premises where Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Limited and Cassava Smartech Limited operate from.
When the sheriff and the lawyers and some folks authorised by the court order to carry out the search went to Cassava offices in Borrowdale they dealt with Edward Ndaima, the Compliance Manager. Ndaima called the Cassava legal officer, Spencer Jambawo who came with a Mr Mbuisa from Mtetwa and Nyambirai legal practitioners. They consented to the search.
As the search on Cassava computers was happening, Mbuisa then said he had received a call from a higher office and ordered the sheriff to stop the execution of the High Court order . All the above is according to Nyasha Muzavazi, the Executive Chairman of Dr Dish who was present. The exact words of Mbuisa according to Muzavazi:
I have received a call from a higher office saying, ‘tell the people that are executing the Order to stop what they are doing there and leave peacefully now.’ I therefore direct you to stop whatever you are doing and leave this place peacefully now
It’s not clear what higher office that is. Is it his bosses at Mtetwa and Nyambirai? Perhaps Tawanda Nyambirai himself? Is it someone at Cassava or Econet? Is it a politician? Whoever that higher office is they are not higher than the court and judiciary so it’s a very odd directive.
From there the Sheriff of the High Court left Cassava and reported the matter at Borrowdale Police as an obstruction of justice case. Both the police report and the court order are on public record and we have seen them.
Why did Econet politely march out the Sheriff of the High Court?
Here’s Econet’s full response:
On Friday 22 February 2019, the Sheriff of the High Court attended at the premises of EcoCash (Private) Limited with an order of the High Court directing that the Sheriff search the premises for sensitive information pertaining to customers at the instance of Dr Dish (Private) Limited.
On perusal of the Order we noticed that neither EcoCash Private Limited nor Econet Wireless (Private) Limited, who are the custodians of the said information, had been cited as parties to the order.
Neither the Sheriff nor the instructing attorneys were willing to listen to the explanation. In a bid to protect customer information and prevent wanton release of same without proper court order to that effect, the Sheriff’s and all those who accompanied him were asked to peacefully leave the premises.
EcoCash have since filed an Urgent Chamber Application in the High Court to have the issue resolved.
We would like to categorically state that EcoCash (Private) Limited have no relationship with the said Dr Dish. The relationship which Dr Dish had with our affiliate Econet Media was terminated in November 2017.
Why did the High Court issue such an order in the first place?
The order to search Cassva and Econet computers and other records was issued when Dr Dish applied for the same. If you don’t remember Dr Dish, they are the guys who partnered Econet Media to bring Kwese TV into Zimbabwe way back in August 2017. Econet Media needed them because Dr Dish had a broadcasting license and Econet did not.
Early last year however, Econet Media unilaterally terminated the agreement they had with Dr Dish. Dr Dish threatened to sue Econet at the Anti Corruption Commission because they questioned how Kwese kept broadcasting without a license covering them. Finally at the end of May last year, Econet finally got their own broadcasting license.
Anyway, for the time the two companies were partners they had a revenue sharing agreement. According to court papers, Dr Dish was entitled to 5% of Kwese subscription revenue. This is where the High Court comes in, Dr Dish did not agree with the number of subscribers they were told by Econet Media. They approached the High Court to be allowed to inspect for themselves from different records including EcoCash records how many subscribers had paid for Kwese and how much.
How much is at stake?
So Muzavazi says Econet Media told them that for the time that they were using the Dr Dish license, there were only 38 Kwese subscribers in Zimbabwe and hence money owed to Dr Dish was $8.05. Yes you read that right, I didn’t say million or thousand. Something is very wrong with that number because when Kwese officially launched in Zimbabwe an executive there shared that they had over 40 000 subscribers and were adding thousands every day. This was just two months after starting to operate in Zimbabwe.
According to Muzavazi, Econet Media never gave them any evidence of what numbers they had subscribed. He says they then invoiced Econet for $6.8 million based on their estimates of how many subscribers Kwese had accrued. This figure sounds too high because working with the 5% Dr Dish was entitled to, what they are asking for assumes that Kwese had generated $136 million for Econet in Zimbabwe during the time that they were partners.
However, what they are owed may not be $7 million but it sure ain’t eight dollars and five cents unless there’s something we are missing. Econet in their response to us did not respond to our questions about how many subscribers Kwese had in the period in question and how much Dr Dish was owed if at all. They said they won’t respond to that right now.