Mobile telecommunications company MTN has become the latest big corporate to announce a planned vaccine mandate policy for all staff.
In a statement on Monday, the group said the move forms part of its efforts to protect the health and safety of staff.
The MTN Group said it would be implementing a mandatory vaccination policy for staff from next month.
“The science is clear. Vaccination against COVID-19 reduces rates of serious infections, hospitalisation, and death. As an employer, we have a responsibility to ensure that our workplaces are guided by the highest standards of health and safety, and that has informed our decision to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for our staff,” said MTN group president and chief executive officer Ralph Mupita.
MTN said it recognised the right of employees with what it termed “clearly defined grounds” to be exempted from the policy and refuse vaccination.
But for those staff not exempt from the policy through risk assessment or agreed upon exclusions who refuse to get vaccinated, MTN said it would not be “obliged to keep them in employment”.
In some markets with inadequate access to vaccines, the corporate will allow parts of its workforce to be accommodated with full-time work-from-home or alternate arrangements.
The company has called for more COVID-19 vaccines to be made available to protect the continent’s residents.
MTN Independent’s non-executive chairman Mcebisi Jonas has been in West Africa during the state and official visits by the South African government as part of businesses delegation where the issue of mandatory vaccines was also discussed.
By Aaron Kirchfeld, Loni Prinsloo and Dinesh Nair for News24
MTN recently made a takeover approach for Telkom in a deal that would’ve combined South Africa’s second and third largest telecommunications operators, according to people familiar with the matter.
Telkom has so far shown no interest in a sale, said the people, who asked to remain private as the talks are confidential. It remains unclear whether the larger rival will continue its pursuit, the people said.
“There is no deal on the table in relation to this matter,” MTN said in a statement after Bloomberg inquiries, declining further comment. A representative for Telkom didn’t immediately comment.
Following a multi-year asset-disposal program, MTN is flush with cash and looking to build on its core business. A combination with Telkom, which has a market value of R29 billion, would help close the gap with crosstown rival Vodacom Group Ltd. MTN’s shares have risen more than 177% this year, valuing it at about R314.7 billion.
Last week, the two parties agreed on a multi-year roaming agreement, where Telkom uses MTN’s network. There are also certain alignment in their company strategy as MTN is busy with a sale-and-leaseback deal of its South African towers, and Telkom is separating its towers business to prepare it for a possible listing of the unit.
With over 40% owned by the state, Telkom controls South Africa’s largest landline network and also sells mobile-phone packages among other services. Telkom’s other large shareholder is state-owned pension fund manager the Public Investment Corporation that holds 14% of the company, according to Bloomberg data. For a deal to ever get the go-ahead, there would have to be government support and a number of competition issues would have to be worked on, said the people.
Johannesburg-based MTN has been paying debt at a rapid rate as it disposes of non-core assets, that also includes the phased sell-down of a stake it holds in recently listed IHS Towers, the sale-and-leaseback of its South African towers and exiting certain Middle Eastern operations.
MTN is Africa’s biggest mobile phone company with about 272 million subscribers, according to its website.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Icasa issued temporary spectrum to providers to cope with the surge in work-from-home data demands during lockdown.
MTN, for example, reported a 165% increase in data traffic since the start of the pandemic.
Icasa then announced the temporary spectrum would be withdrawn at the end of November.
Vodacom, MTN and Telkom objected, and approached the court to seek an urgent interdict to prevent that from happening.
The case was due to be heard next week.
But on Wednesday, Icasa announced providers could now submit applications for temporary spectrum for a seven-month period ending 30 June 2022, or three months after the termination of the national state of disaster, whichever came first.
Icasa chairperson Keanetswe Modimeng said the invitation showed the authority was “not a spectrum-hoarding regulator”, adding the arrangement was an improved pro-competitive interim measure.
“This provisional arrangement is tailored to deal with any network issues which may affect the provision of services to consumers in the intervening period,” added Modimoeng.
Icasa said companies would have to submit their applications by no later than 17 November 2021.
“The authority believes that it is in the best interest of the public to have a provisional spectrum licensing arrangement in place over the next seven months. This will enable all other inherent licensing processes to conclude while mitigating any possible service disruptions.”
The auction of permanent high-demand spectrum was halted after Telkom and e.tv obtained an interdict against the process, citing flaws in Icasa’s process.
Icasa said it was still confident it could hold the auction in March 2022.
Cell C has started the migration of its 16 million subscribers to MTN’s cellphone tower infrastructure. This comes as the company prepares to switch off its own radio access network.
“From mid-December, our contract and broadband customers will be enabled to roam on a partner network. This change will be beneficial to our customers and ensure a connectivity experience that delivers both quality and value,” said Cell C in a statement released on Wednesday.
Cell C said its customers will be migrated in stages and it expects the transition to be completed by early February 2021.
“You will be alerted via SMS communication when your service will be enabled. This change will not result in any additional charges and your existing terms and conditions will remain in place,” Cell C added.
Customers have been advised to manually activate ’Data roaming’ in the phone settings in a bid to avoid disruptions to you data connectivity.
It’s worth noting that Apple device users’ data roaming will be activated automatically.
Customers still experiencing difficulties after this are encouraged to contact general customer service at 084 135.
According to MyBroadband, this infrastructure sharing strategy will help Cell C to cut down on network investments and forms part of a broader turnaround strategy to get the company out of deep financial woes.
Rob Shuter, MTN Group CEO, will be stepping down from his role at the end of his contract in March 2021, the mobile phone operator announced on Wednesday.
“The board thanks Rob for the contribution he has made and, continues to make, to MTN. The succession process will be concluded during the year, enabling a seamless handover,” the company said in a statement.
MTN group chief technology and IT officer Charles Molapisi has been appointed to the group executive committee and the fixed contract of the group chief operations officer, Jens Schulte-Bockum, has been extended until 31 March 2022.
Shuter joined MTN from Vodafone in 2016, to replace Sifiso Dabengwa.
He was the CEO of Vodafone’s European cluster.
Shuter is also a former CEO of Vodafone Netherlands and ex-Vodacom chief financial officer. He has extensive experience in telecoms and banking having held senior management roles at Vodacom Group, Standard Bank and Nedbank prior to joining Vodafone Group. For more read: MTN taps Rob Shuter as new CEO
“We will use 2020 to implement our succession process and ensure a seamless handover to the new group president and CEO whilst maintaining our operational execution,” said Shuter in a statement.
In the wake of the Competition Commission ordering Vodacom and MTN to lower their exorbitant data prices, the ruling party says the two must voluntarily do so now than later.
MTN and Vodacom lost R22-billion of their combined value on Monday after the competition watchdog gave the two dominant mobile phone operators two months to slash internet connectivity prices or face prosecution.
The ANC, in response to the two mobile giants’ reasoning that data was so expensive because of the lack of spectrum, said that would be sorted in the near future and that should not be an excuse.
Joining the chorus of those welcoming the news that on the side battered the values of the companies, the ruling party said the current steep prices of data have a negative impact not only on the growth of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.
“We reiterate our call that operators must demonstrate goodwill by voluntarily lowering data prices and allow government to resolve the allocation of new spectrum. The release of spectrum, which the ANC supports, will resolve the network capacity constraints experienced by Mobile Network Operators and accelerate the roll-out of broadband networks in rural areas,” the party said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
On the high data costs, the party said the working class poor, youth, students and women are robbed of their income as they spend more than 25% on the telecommunications services including data services.
It said the majority of the country’s people, due to the widening digital divide, are unable to enjoy the benefits of a digital economy, which deprive the poor of full participation in the democracy of our country. It added that this further stifles development and growth of small businesses.
“The ANC further urges government to activate all regulatory mechanisms, i.e. Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to ensure the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the Competition Commission, with the necessary speed. Access to data in the 21st century is important because it facilitates the realisation of many rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights, as well as, enhancing economic participation and the strengthening of our democracy.”
Among its findings, the Competition Commission said while conducting its inquiry it started in 2017, it found that current comparisons of the prices charged by Vodacom and MTN in other African markets in which they operate also reveal that South African prices are higher than most countries by some distance.