By Otim Nape
Barely four days to the much awaited UCC public hearing, which is a requirement before the regulator renews their operation license, telecom giant MTN has been hit by a bombshell which some have called premonition for the bad things that are yet to come. They have lost a civil suit that was filed against them by their pioneer PR Agency called GQ Saatchi & Saatchi. This is the firm that did their PR for more than 12 years right from the day they entered the Ugandan market. However, 10 years ago (2008), MTN selfish, insensitive & ungrateful as usual kicked them out and brought a South African multinational PR agency (Metropolitan Republic/later replaced by TBWA) which they currently pay Shs300m as retainer fees per months where Saatchi earned only Shs100m PR month. Saatchi, which unsuccessfully competed for contract renewal, dragged MTN to court 5 years ago not because they were jittery about their contract not being renewed. No. Court records clearly show that it was because the MTN Group acted indifferently as usual by walking out of the relationship without paying close to Shs2bn that was pending in unsettled advertising deals.
Initially Saatchi, that was also a victim of unethical business practices by none Ugandan foreign competitors, initially tried administrative approach hoping MTN would act fairly and pay up. As of 2011, their patience had clearly run out. They took MTN to court but this being Uganda, the way we have come to know it, the case took until recently for the judgment to come out. The court held that MTN must pay the money with damages totalling to Shs2bn as of 2015. However, in it’s usual bullish approach, MTN refused to pay and instead resorted to abusing court process by signalling they would appeal in the Court of Appeal. They indeed filed their appeal but haven’t been prosecuting it with the seriousness that one would expect. Knowledgeable industry sources say things wouldn’t have escalated this far if it wasn’t the selfish improper legal advice the top management kept getting from the legal manager a one Katamba who gratefully has since been relegated to a less prolific role.
The 2015 court decision requires that they instantly pay up or else they face annual interest of 20% and this has brought the entire bill pending now close to Shs6bn and the figure can only grow because instead of paying up, MTN has now resorted to delaying tactics by filing endless miscellaneous applications which Saatchi lawyers argue is clearly aimed at abusing court’s time in the false hope that Saatchi gives up its claim. Yet this isn’t the only court case hovering over the heads of MTN top executives as the clock ticks away to the Monday public hearing during which many defrauded citizens, including MPs & Ministers, have vowed to make a case as to why their license shouldn’t be renewed. UCC ED Eng Mutabaazi says they have prepared a hall that is big enough to accommodate as many citizens during the very unprecedented Monday public hearing. For comments, call/text/WhatsApp us on 0703164755?