16 April 2017

Tanzania: DRC Tycoon Drags Vodacom to Court Over Defamation, Demands 10 Billion/ - Compensation

Photo: Jerry Chifamba/allAfrica
Vodacom logo (file photo).

The dispute on attachment of 1,092,000,130 shares of Vodacom has reached a new turn following a fresh move by businessman Moto Mabanga of DRC to demand over 10bn/-from Vodacom Tanzania Limited, for allegedly publishing defamatory statements against him.

However, Vodacom Tanzania Limited have denied the claims by the businessman and their lawyers from IMMMA Advocates have plainly indicated to strongly defend any claim that Mr Mabanga would wish to tender before the court of law at his own risk.

In a demand letter served on the company, Mabanga's lawyers stated that on March 16, this year, their client filed a suit before the High Court's Commercial Division for enforcement of a decree by Kinshasa Court against Vodacom International Limited over the shares held by Vodacom Group Limited.

Having been served with pleadings, it is stated, Vodacom Tanzania Limited allegedly maliciously prepared, distributed and caused to be published in various media outlets, electronic and print words suggesting Mabanga connected the issue with Vodacom PLC shares sold so that he is paid his debt.

"The statement is false, malicious and unfounded as the suit is not concerned at all with 560,000,100 Vodacom Tanzania Plc shares that are being issued to the public for sale," reads part of the demand letter dated April 3, 2017 to the Company's Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ian Ferrao.

Rather, according to the demand letter, the suit was concerned with attachment of 1,092,000,130 shares held by the Vodacom Group Limited in Vodacom Tanzania Limited, the shares that are yet to be offered to the public for sale.

Furthermore, it is stated that Vodacom Tanzania Limited uttered and caused to be published alleged defamatory words against the businessman suggesting that after completion of the case in Kinshasa Court he took the complaint once again before the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

"The words are false and malicious in that Mr Moto Mabanga never instituted any proceedings in the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration," reads another paragraph of the letter by lawyers of the businessman, Mnyele, Msengezi & Company Advocates.

It is alleged that the published words have caused the businessman to be shunned, hated, avoided and disparaged by the right thinking members of the Tanzania society.

Such words allegedly portrayed Mabanga as an opportunist who intends to frustrate the general public to purchase shares offered for the sale by Vodacom Tanzania, the fact that is false and unfounded.

Therefore, the lawyers have required the company to pay the said 5,000,000 USD, plus the costs of the demand notice, which is 50,000 USD within seven days of receipt of the same, failure of which they would proceed to institute a suit against them without further notice.

In its response to the demand letter, Vodacom Tanzania Limited referred to several paragraphs Mr Mabanga had stated in support of an application, pending determination of the main suit and came up with a position that the words complained of are neither false nor malicious and are perfectly justifiable.

"Consequently, we have been instructed to inform you that given the contents of your client's sworn affidavit, the statement which is the basis of complaint is neither false nor malicious. Our instructions are to vigorously defend any suit (Mabanga) may wish to file (in court)," Vodacom lawyers replied.

Mr Mabanga has filed an application before the High Court's Commercial Division, seeking orders for attachment of 1,092,000,130 shares of Vodacom Tanzania Public Limited Company to recover a debt amounting to over 40bn/- he is demanding.

In the main suit, the businessman is seeking for judgment and decree for the court to open the veils of incorporation of Vodacom Group Limited and Vodacom Congo DRC SPRL and that the court should find that the two companies are practically one and the same.

Mr Mabanga is further requesting the court to order the execution of the judgment given by Kinshasa Commercial Court by attachment and sale of the shares held by the Vodacom Companies to realise a decretal amount of 20,080,000 US dollars.

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