LCA, Vodacom toxic relationship exposed

LCA, Vodacom toxic relationship exposed

MASERU-COURT papers have revealed details of the toxic relations between Vodacom Lesotho and the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA).
The court papers that Vodacom Lesotho filed in the High Court last week expose the bare knuckle behind-the-scenes battles that could have damaged the relations beyond repair.

Vodacom has since been granted a temporary order blocking the LCA from revoking its licence pending the finalisation of the case. The order also stops the LCA from demanding that Vodacom pays M40 million of the M134 million fine it imposed on Vodacom on September 28.
The regulator is yet to respond to the papers. But what is however emerging in the court papers is that relations between the two are so frayed that an amicable resolution is almost impossible.

To its papers, Vodacom has attached letters, emails and minutes it claims show that the LCA was hell bent on punishing it.
In one email ‘Mamarame Matela, the LCA boss, accused the Vodacom board of trying to instigate a regime change in Lesotho in an attempt to block the charges it was facing.

Matela wrote the letter to Vodafone, the company that owns Vodacom Group which controls 80 percent of Vodacom Lesotho in March just as her battles with the board were escalating.
Matela was complaining about Vodacom’s alleged refusal to comply with her order to fire its external auditor whose partner is related to Matjato Moteane, the company’s chairman at that time.

She said apart from deliberately disregarding the compliance orders some board members were plotting to engineer a cabinet reshuffle.
Her allegations were directed at Moteane and Jabulani Moleketi, Vodacom Group’s chairman.
“We are also concerned about the planned regime change funded by Vodacom under the leaderships of Mr Moleketi from South Africa and Mr Matjato Moteane the local chairman whose unethical conduct is complained of, to reshuffle the current Minister of Communications (Thesele ‘Maseribane) to ensure my ouster as the CEO of LCA to ensure the issues raised herein are not resolved for the benefit of Vodacom Lesotho and its shareholders,” Matela said.

She alleged Moleketi left their February 20 meeting to attend another at the State House.
Matela claims that at that meeting an offer of M2 million was made to the then First Lady to arrange for Maseribane’s reshuffling “to bring in a new Minister that would suspend me and place another person who would ensure that Vodacom directors remain in office to further unlawful activities in Lesotho unabated.”

The LCA boss sounded apprehensive that a reshuffle was imminent and should lead to her dismissal or suspension.
“I have just received information of an imminent re-shuffle tomorrow by the Prime Minister.

“In the event that the planned re-shuffle by Mr Moleketi and Mr Moteane takes place tomorrow and am subsequently removed or suspended to ensure that the contraventions by Vodacom Lesotho are quashed or swept under the carpet, I shall have every right to appeal to the international community including ICASA and OfCom in England regarding the manner in which your organisation funds regime change, money laundering and terrorism in Lesotho through the instrumentality of Vodacom Group Ltd to avoid dealing with serious compliance issues raised with the Vodafone Group.”

Phillip Amoateng, Vodacom’s managing director, however vehemently denies these allegations in his affidavit.
Amoateng said these scurrilous and unfounded allegations confirm that Matela was fixated on punishing Vodacom.
He said the fact that Matela accused the Vodacom board of being reckless and delinquent shows her attitude towards the company.

“The use of derogatory words reflects bad faith, malice and personal animosity” on Matela’s part, Amoateng said.
He described the fine as “so grossly exorbitant and unreasonable that no authority properly directing its mind could impose such a penalty”.
Amoateng says the LCA had no authority to charge the company over an issue relating to the appointment of an external auditor.

That issue, he said, falls within the purview of the Registrar of Companies and the regulator could have also consulted the Lesotho Institute of Accountants for a proper interpretation.
Amoateng said the regulator’s interpretation of the Companies Act is wrong. He said the company followed procedure in appointing the auditor and took steps to avoid conflict of interest.

Amoateng also claims that on September 30, two days after imposing the fine, Matela called him to demand that he pays the M40 million fine by that afternoon.
This, he added, was a violation of the LCA’s rules that gives a regulated company 14 days to seek a legal review of the authority’s decision.

Staff Reporter

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