Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) has been slapped with a M1, 5 million fine by the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA) for the late submission of its licence renewal application.
The renewal application is supposed to be filed at least two years before the expiry of a licence. ETL's licence was supposed to have filed its application on or before 11 October 2019 since its licence expires next year.
LCA chief executive officer, 'Mamarame Matela, this week said ETL has until the end December 2020 to have paid the fine. The ETL fine pales in comparison to the staggering M134 million fine the LCA slapped on Vodacom Lesotho for allegedly flouting various licensing regulations.
Some stakeholders have accused the LCA of heavy-handedness saying the draconian penalties will cripple the mobile telecommunications sector.
Addressing the media this week, Ms Matela said, "Econet was unable to submit its application for renewal of its licence as expected on 11 October 2019".
"There is a requirement in terms of the rules for a licensee to submit its application two years before the end of the existing licence.
"Econet subsequently applied for condonation that they be allowed to submit their application late and after lengthy deliberations, they were allowed to do so by the LCA board on condition they pay a penalty of M1, 5 million by the end of December 2020.
"Econet was also unable to submit its audited financial statements in terms of the conditions of its licence 90 days after the end of their financial year, which ended in February 2020. The matter is still before the authority."
Ms Matela said ETL has also been asked to explain what the impact of the non-renewal of its licence would have on the government which acquired a M515, 1 million loan on behalf of the telecommunications service provider. She however, did not say when the loan was acquired and who lent the funds.
"Econet has also been requested, as part of its licence renewal application, to explain to the authority how the M515 097 845 loan from the government will be serviced in the event that its licence is not renewed.
"They have also been asked to explain how that amount was utilised towards the expansion of its infrastructure," Ms Matela said.
Contacted for comment, ETL public relations manager, Puleng Masoabi said the issues were already being addressed with the regulator.
"There is nothing much to say except that we are already addressing these issues with the LCA," Ms Masoabi said.
Meanwhile, Ms Matela said they would soon open up the sector to allow other aspiring communications services providers to apply for licences to end the ETL-Vodacom duopoly in the sector.
She said parliament is currently finalising legislation to support the new licensing regime.