SA govt raises concern as Cameroon locks MTN bank accounts
The South African government has expressed concern regarding the treatment of MTN and Tiger Brands in Cameroon.
For 10 months, MTN has not been able to access its bank accounts worth with over $23 million over a matter not related to the telecom provider.
MTN and its banking partners were served with a garnishee order at the request of business tycoon with strong government connections, Ahmadou Baba Danpullo.
MTN is now facing operational challenges,CEO Mitwa Ng'ambi told a press conference on Wednesday. Ng'ambi said the situation could negatively impact the 12 million subscribers it serves.
The matter emanates from an ongoing case in South African High Court involving Danpullo’s South African company Bestinver Holdings and First National Bank (FNB).
In the matter, FNB, which was owed R507 million by Ahmadou Danpullo’s companies, launched applications for the winding-up of the companies; and on 19 June 2020, the companies were placed in provisional business rescue, before the order was made final on 26 October 2020.
In response, Danpullo cried foul alleging discrimination, as his real estate portfolio reportedly valued at R4 billion was liquidated for the R507 million owed to the bank.
FNB denied the allegation, saying the move was strictly a normal business decision to recoup monies owed to the bank.
Danpullo then approached courts in his home country and was granted a garnishee order on accounts of MTN, claiming it is a subsidiary of the Public Investment Corporate, which he says is also a shareholder in FNB.
“MTN Cameroon firmly contests the garnishment of its bank accounts, that it considers as abusive, fraudulent and unacceptable, given that MTN Cameroon has no relation whatsoever with neither Bestinver group of companies, Mr. Danpullo, nor the said South African bank,” Ng'ambi said.
She told reporters that neither FNB nor Public Investment Corporation are shareholders of MTN Cameroon.
Ng'ambi continued: “We see the seizure of MTN Cameroon’s accounts as abusive and nothing more than an attempt to access funds that legitimately belong to us.
“No decision has been handed down on the merits of this case almost 10 months later, despite the fact that most of the proceedings were initiated in emergency proceedings.
“A threat to our operations is a threat to everything we have built in service to Cameroon over the last 23 years.”
South Africa’s minister of international relations and co-operation, Dr Naledi Pandor, has added her voice on the matter, expressing concern regarding the treatment of South African companies in Cameroon.
“Minister Pandor had advised the executives of South African companies to continue pursuing all legal avenues available,” reads a statement from her department.
Contacted by ITWeb Africa, a spokesperson for Baba Danpullo Group declined to comment saying "the matter is still in court".