HARARE – Econet Wireless (Econet) yesterday disconnected government-owned cellular network operator NetOne again over a $19 million debt while the High Court was sitting to hear the case.
NetOne made an urgent chamber application at the High Court last Thursday seeking an order compelling Econet, Zimbabwe’s largest mobile phone operator, to restore interconnection services. NetOne argued the disconnection was against the law. Econet on Thursday agreed to reconnect NetOne until 10am yesterday.
Econet disconnected NetOne at 10am sharp, while the court was in session. Judge Ben Hlatshwayo is presiding over the case. NetOne, which is represented by Advocate Ray Goba, said during last week’s agreement there was no intimation of temporary reconnection.
“We did not expect the respondent (Econet) to reconnect on an interim basis like they are telling the public,” said Goba. Goba said Econet as a powerful institution was being abusive, arrogant and exuding “typical behaviour of a bull in a China shop”.
Advocate Firoz Girach, representing Econet told the court the case revolves around the debt, which they have acknowledged but denied the value. “They (NetOne) are saying let us use your services and we will not pay for it. If you want something you must pay for it,” said Girach.
Girach told the court NetOne had not engaged Econet over the debt and said there was an agreement between the two parties. “There must be an acknowledgement from the applicant that they would pay rather than say there was no agreement. That is a clever way of saying I do not want to pay,” said Girach.
He went further and gave an example of TelOne which he said despite being in the same predicament had approached Econet to come up with a payment plan. The two parties, however, yesterday came up with a consent order, where NetOne is to be reconnected pending court proceedings. Econet was due to reconnect NetOne yesterday.
“With effect from September 1, 2012, the parties agreed to carry on business in terms of the 2004 interconnection agreement subject to the tariffs fixed by the regulator as of September 1, 2012,” reads one of the terms agreed.
Econet is also expected to file arguments within seven days, while the court will give a date for the hearing of the case in terms of the consent order. Daily News