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Lesotho revokes Vodacom’s operating licence

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Lesotho , 08 Oct 2020

The Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) has revoked the operating licence for Vodacom Lesotho, accusing the operator of missing the deadline of 7 October 2020 to pay US$500 000.

The regulator also accused the operator of failing to pay regulatory fees and outlining plans regarding internet connectivity.

Vodacom Lesotho has about 1.2 million mobile subscribers and 500 000 M-Pesa mobile money users.

On Thursday, the LCA issued a notice confirming it was revoking the unified licence for Vodacom Lesotho.

“Notice is given of the revocation of the Unified License of Vodacom Lesotho in accordance with section 47 of the Communications Act… for failure to comply with the directive to pay a penalty of M40 200 000 by 7 October 2020. This notice is published in accordance with condition 8 of the Unified License,” the LCA said in a notice.

In 2019, Lesotho said the country’s unit of Vodacom had been granted money from the Universal Services Fund (USF) to roll-out internet connectivity across nearly 100 schools for the 2016 to 2019 years but had failed to do so.

Regional telecommunications executives said Vodacom should have played a bigger role in negotiating a settlement with the Lesotho government.

“This is something that will unnerve subscribers and this is a very sensitive industry which required the parent company’s interventions in negotiating a settlement to the issue,” said one of the executives, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In a recent letter to the operator, the LCA cautioned that 'in the event that Vodacom fails to comply, the Authority shall proceed to revoke the unified license''.

The regulator had also softened its stance on the penalty fee by directing Vodacom Lesotho to pay 30% of the fine immediately after suspending the other 70% on condition the telco does not violate the same conditions in the next five years.

The revocation of the operator’s licence came as a surprise, especially after its parent company, Vodacom South Africa said this week that the Lesotho unit was cooperating with regulators in the mountainous kingdom.

“Vodacom Group is aware of regulatory concerns affecting its Lesotho business relating to a perceived conflict of interest and timeous payment of regulatory fees,” Byron Kennedy, spokesperson for Vodacom, was quoted saying in South African media earlier this year.

“Vodacom Lesotho has made written communication to the Lesotho Communications Authority regarding all these concerns and will continue to engage meaningfully with the view to find common ground with the LCA in the interest of our customers, our stakeholders and the broader Lesotho community,” he added.

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