Court grants Vodacom Lesotho a reprieve in licence battle

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Vodacom has scored a first round victory over the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA), which is seeking to revoke the company's unified licence.

The regulator shocked the telecommunications industry last week after announcing it had invalidated Vodacom’s licence in the mountainous Kingdom, citing alleged transgressions.

The decision meant Vodacom Lesotho will have to stop providing voice, messaging and data services to 1.2 million people, as well as 661 000 mobile money customers on its network.

On Thursday, the LCA issued a public notice confirming the cancellation of Vodacom Lesotho’s licence.

“Notice is given of the revocation of the Unified Licence of Vodacom Lesotho in accordance with section 47 of the Communications Act…for failure to comply with the directive to pay a penalty of R40.2 million by 7 October 2020.”

Vodacom Lesotho approached the High Court in Maseru, securing a stay of execution, as the court interdicted the regulator.

The telco protested that in accordance with Rule 50 (3) of the LCA’s Administrative Rules of 2016, Vodacom Lesotho had 14 days to apply to have the LCA decision imposing the M134 million fine reviewed by the High Court.

The company challenged the “lawfulness of this decision” and got the temporary reprieve on Saturday.

“Vodacom Lesotho confirms the High Court of Lesotho has granted an interim order interdicting the Lesotho Communications Authority from enforcing the payment of the fine of M134 million it imposed on Vodacom, and revoking the company's unified licence,” reads the Vodacom statement.

While the ruling is a win for Vodacom, it does not mark the end of the battle, with the regulator now expected to defend its decision.

In terms of the court order, the LCA must, on 23 October 2020, show cause why the interim order should not be made a final order of the court.

In the meantime, Vodacom says it “remains business as usual” for all its customers in the Kingdom.

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