By Jeffrey Muvundusi
BULAWAYO – Zimbabwe’s second largest mobile network operator by subscriber base, Telecel, has been forced to pay council bills for base stations erected on municipal land without authority.
Telecel has about 60 base stations dotted around the city, with the majority of them operating illegally for almost 15 years, according to the director of engineering services Simela Dube.
“Some of the base stations were erected in 1999 and the mobile communications firm has been enjoying the benefits of using them without paying any levies to council,” Dube said, according to the latest council minutes.
As a result, the local authority had to back date bills to the time when these base stations were erected to recover the money.
Some of the base stations have been erected on council land and on tower lights while others were on private land. In all instances, council authority was required but Telecel had contravened council by-laws, the city fathers said.
Councillors were not amused by the violation which made some of the tower lights inaccessible for routine maintenance and repairs because Telecel had put up concrete structures and installed equipment on illegal buildings.
As part of the agreement, Telecel indicated that their accounts department was handling the issue of outstanding council bills.
“They also agreed that regularisation of the illegal base stations would be done together with the processing of lease agreements and submitting building plans for approval,” read the council report.
Telecel immediately granted the council unlimited access to all the tower lights they occupy so that repairs could be done. For years, council had failed to access the tower lights as they were locked.
It was also agreed that the telecommunications emerging giant provides the time frame within which they would comply with council requirements.
Middleton Nyoni, the town clerk, said town planners would continue to monitor the erection of base stations for control purposes. Daily News