Monday, July 02, 2012
By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Mon 02 July 2012, 13:24 CAT
CABINET will this month decide on the fate of Zesco's optic fibre which is at the centre of controversy between Zamtel and the power utility, says communications minister Yamfwa Mukanga.
According to government sources, Zamtel, through managing director Dr Mupanga Mwanakatwe, is pushing to wrestle back the Zesco optic fibre from the power utility after the government reversed the sale of the telecommunications company.
In 2010, at the height of the controversial sale of three quarters of Zamtel to LAP GreenN of Libya, former president Rupiah Banda's government forced Zesco to cede its optic fibre cable to Zamtel but still has to settle the US $13 million loan for laying it.
However, following the reversal of the US $257 million Zamtel sale in January 2012, the government instructed that the optic fibre be returned to its rightful owners - Zesco - while Zamtel should pursue its own optic fibre project or rent the facility from Zamtel at a commercial rate.
But according to government sources, Dr Mwanakatwe is pushing for the return of the optic fibre to Zamtel, an asset industry sources say contributed "massively" to the quick turnaround of Zamtel in the aftermath of the 2010 privatisation. Commenting on the controversy, Mukanga said Cabinet would make the final decision on the control of the asset.
"Discussions are underway to see how Zamtel and Zesco will come up with the solution," he said in an interview.
"Ultimately, both optic fibre are under-utilised. We want to find a solution as to who is supposed to be the sole owner of the optic fibre or who should be running the optic fibre while the other one is getting a service from the other. And that decision can only be made by Cabinet, and we will try to draft a cab memo and see which direction Cabinet is going to give us. Within one month, everything will be done because discussions are already underway between both managements."
Both Zesco and Zamtel had both invested in laying the optic fibre although industry sources said the Zamtel optic fibre had failed to take off.
And Mukanga hinted the desire to see Zamtel takeover the Zesco optic fibre.
"Zesco is a company that is supposed to execute electricity and energy-related issues, and communication issues are for Zamtel," said Mukanga.
"I believe that even if Zesco was given a licence of being a carrier or carriers, it will not be in its core business and it will be some sort of a diversification. Zesco should concentrate on what they know best and Zamtel should concentrate on what it knows best, for now, since discussions are underway, I don't want to preempt what they are going to discuss."