Friday, December 05, 2008
Written by Fridah Zinyama, Chiwoyu Sinyangwe and Allan Mulenga
Friday, December 05, 2008 11:02:44
Zambian government has not yet found an equity partner for the country's telecommunication company Zamtel but has just started the process of doing so, Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) managing director Andrew Chipwende has said.
But sources within Ministry of Transport have indicated that the government has already identified a telecommunication company from the Middle East to partner with Zamtel.
And chairman for the Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Communications Douglas Syakalima has said the government’s decision to partially privatise Zamtel should ensure that interests of Zambians were protected.
Chipwende said the government was still a long way from finding a strategic equity partner for Zamtel but had only started the process.
Transport and communications minister Dora Siliya on Wednesday said the government’s decision to find an equity partner for Zamtel was based on the company’s poor performance despite operating in a very profitable industry.
“What the minister announced is the commencement of the process which we hope will be quickly finished,” he said. “We still have some modalities to look at of how we are going to find a strategic partner.”
Chipwende explained that a legal review and the issuance of a licence had to be done before announcing an equity partner for Zamtel.
“It is a long process which has been started and will only be concluded next year,” said Chipwende.
And commenting on government’s decision to partially privatise Zamtel in the next four months, Syakalima said members of the Transport and Communication Committee had suggested that government should recapitalise the company for it to be run in a profitable manner.
“And if finding an equity partner is the best that government can do for Zamtel, then so be it but the interests of the workers and the people of Zambia should first and foremost be protected,” he said.
Syakalima said it was important for the government to ensure that everything was handled well to avoid disagreements that ensued after the sale of Zanaco’s 49 per cent shares to Rabobank.
And sources within the Ministry of Transport and Communications said the selection of an equity partner for the financially beleaguered Zamtel was “a foregone conclusion.”
“You can’t do any evaluation to privatise a company of Zamtel’s magnitude within three to four months. Look at how long it took for Zanaco,” said the sources. “Anyway, the bottom line is that the announcement by the government is just a formality because the company to buy shareholding in Zamtel has already been found...we are not very sure if the company is coming from Israel but certainly it’s from the Middle East.”
And National Union of Communication Workers (NUCW) general secretary Emmanuel Kasonde has urged the government to involve the union in the partial privatisation process of Zamtel to guarantee job security for employees.
Kasonde said while the union welcomed the stance taken by the government to find an equity partner for Zamtel, there was need to protect the interests of workers.
“The beauty is that the privatisation has come at a time when Zamtel has reached a level where it cannot operate effectively and compete favourably on the market. The government should ensure that the privatisation is carefully done to avoid other repercussions,” he said.
Kasonde said the privatisation of Zamtel was long over due, because the state utility company had failed to compete favourably with multinational telecommunication companies.
“We have seen the downfall in the business performance of Zamtel. The privatisation of the company is in the interest of all people and stakeholders. The development will change the business fundamentals of information technology sector in the nation,” he said.
Kasonde however accused the government of having been at the centre of the poor performance of Zamtel.
“The government has lamentably failed to run Zamtel because the company has enough facilities that could make Zamtel a leading telecommunication service provider on the continent,” he said.
Kasonde said once the privatisation process was completed and a proper equity partner identified, the Zamtel would be one of the leading telecommunication service providers in the region.