Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2001-12-20 Reporter: Stefaans Brummer and Mungo Soggot Editor:

Cell C Settles with Apartheid Operatives


Publication  Mail & Guardian
Date 2001-12-20

Stefaans Brummer and Mungo Soggot

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CELL C was tight-lipped this week about its settlement with three businessmen who in a bizarre lawsuit accused the cellular operator's Saudi owners of not paying them a $2-million"success fee" for helping to secure its licence.

The settlement with Cell C's owner, Saudi Oger, was struck with Alfred Oosthuizen, formerly head of the apartheid-era security branch's "D" Section; Louis Coetzee, formerly with the apartheid-era National Intelligence Service; and businessman Esmond Myhill.

The Pretoria High Court, which had earlier attached all the issued shares in Saudi Oger's South African subsidiary, cancelled the order this week.

Both sides declined to comment on the nature and scope of the settlement, saying it was confidential. Their truce nevertheless underscores the incongruity of the cellular company's decision to work with former apartheid-era security operatives.

Intriguingly, Oosthuizen has also shared other business connections with members of Cell C's empowerment arm, CellSaf.

Cell C confirmed last week that the three men had "performed the initial rudimentary groundwork" for Saudi Oger when it started preparing to get its licence. In an affidavit before the Pretoria High Court Oosthuizen said the three had agreed with representatives of Saudi Oger that they should help find a "local empowerment group with the necessary political capabilities and competence to successfully politically lobby for the issuing of a cellular licence".

Oosthuizen's affidavit also said the three would "take part in the political lobbying process with the object of ensuring that the group to be formed by Saudi Oger and the local empowerment group would be awarded a cellular licence. Saudi Oger would pay an amount of $2-million to the three applicants as a success fee, such success to be determined by the issuing of a cellular licence to the group to be formed."

One of the companies comprising CellSaf is Ubambo Investment Holdings, which was at one stage involved in a security company joint venture with Oosthuizen and other apartheid-era security operatives. The skirmish is the latest in a series of controversies that have dogged the awarding of South Africa's third cellular licence to Cell C. One of the losing bidders, Nextcom, took Cell C and the government to court earlier this year, claiming there had been political interference in what should have been an independent evaluation of the bids.

Oosthuizen's statement in his affidavit about teaming up with empowerment partners who could "successfully politically lobby" echoes some of Nextcom's claims, which were also settled out of court.

With acknowledgement to Stefaans Brummer, Mungo Soggot and The Mail and Guardian.