There is a man right here in Zimbabwe who happens to be a seasoned lawyer, major shareholder in one of the telecommunications companies and son in law to a prominent politician in Zimbabwe. All this is no crime but it is quite an attractive story for a curious cat. Techzim is a curious cat.
That man is Gerald Mlotshwa
Gerald Mlotshwa studied to be a lawyer in the UK and came back to Zimbabwe to found Titan Law which focuses on corporate law. As a lawyer he has had some high profile clients, the most interesting of which is former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko. Mlotshwa’s Titan Law represents Mphoko.
What makes that break the curiosity meter however is that Mr Mlotshwa is married to one Farai Mlotshwa (nee Mnangagwa.) Yes, he is married to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s daughter, Farai Mnangagwa.
For some who don’t really follow politics, let me briefly explain why that’s a fun little bit of information. Former Vice President Mphoko was aligned with the G40 faction of Zanu PF which ousted now President Mnangagwa from the party at one point. Mnangagwa eventually became party president and Mphoko fled the country, or more accurately, just did not return as he was out of the country when the whole coup-not-coup event happened.
Mlotshwa’s business interests
As mentioned above, he is the founder of Titan Law. He also happens to have 40% shareholding in Telecel. You may know that the government now owns 60% of Telecel and the 40% was owned by the Empowerment Corporation (EC). Shareholding issues have plagued the EC but Mlotshwa eventually emerged as the sole beneficiary of the 40% stake in Telecel.
Mlotshwa was recently in the news again when he acquired a 50% shareholding in Dr Dish and is set to take on the role of chairman in the company. You should know Dr Dish by now, they partnered with Econet Media (Kwese) and were essentially the reason Kwese was able to air in Zimbabwe. Dr Dish has a broadcasting licence which Kwese utilized until their contract termination late in 2017.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe recently invited applications for broadcasting licences and Kwese applied for their own. Dr Dish however is not doomed just because they parted ways with Kwese. Dr Dish is gearing up to be taking on Kwese and are set to partner a local telecommunications company, some churches and even SABC to offer a compelling alternative to Kwese. Said the Dr Dish CEO,
We are in advanced talks with a local Telco to rollout “Television everywhere” for all our various Satellite products via a Mobile Application
Dr Dish’s CEO did not reveal which telecommunications company they will be partnering but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out or at least make an informed guess. You can bet your liver and both your kidneys that the local telco is not Econet. That leaves Netone and Telecel (the partner is for mobile so it has to be an MNO).
So Dr Dish just got a new major shareholder who owns 50% of the company and takes on the chairman role. That same individual also happens to have a 40% stake in Telecel. If you are not thinking it yet let me spell out my thoughts: I think it is Telecel which is in talks with Dr Dish.
If that’s true, there are some corporate governance issues which need to be clarified. Mr Mlotshwa by virtue of him holding stakes in both companies has to excuse himself from any deliberations involving the deal. He is clearly conflicted.
That’s all well and good on paper if he excuses himself but just from looking at the story it appears he is behind the deal and so that in itself puts pressure on the Telecel board.
How about the Dr Dish board members? Here they have a new major shareholder who has the power to kick them out of the board. That same guy seemingly looks to be interested in a deal but excuses himself from the deliberations. Can we really say they would not be influenced on the outcome?
Consider again that the Dr Dish CEO said they are in advanced talks with a local telco. Key words there are ‘advanced talks.’ The Dr Dish-telco deal we are talking about here is not one that can be decided on in a few days. If the talks are at an advanced stage it would be fair to assume they have had these talks for at least a few weeks.
What’s my point? Mlotshwa only became major shareholder and chairman of Dr Dish following a deal signed over this last weekend. Yes, the weekend that ended just four days ago. It would appear that Mlotshwa being a major shareholder in Telecel went ahead and acquired a company which his Telecel was engaged in talks with over a deal possibly worth millions.
Now the board of directors of Telecel might or might not have been obliged to tell its members, the government and Mlotshwa about the talks with Dr Dish but I would think Mlotshwa knew about the talks before he acquired Dr Dish.
Now I am no lawyer like Mlotshwa but I do know that there is an old UK case Regal (Hastings) Ltd v Gulliver  where it was ruled against directors and officers from taking corporate opportunities in violation of their duty of loyalty. Mlotshwa being a lawyer probably took precautions and disclosed his 40% stake to the other Dr Dish members and that would be enough.
It’s quite a story isn’t it? Now remember that we made a number of assumptions in this story. For one we do not know if the telco in talks with Dr Dish is Telecel. We made an educated guess. But the verified facts tell a compelling story on their own.
Mlotshwa, the President’s son in law and lawyer to former Vice President Mphoko has a 40% stake in Telecel and a 50% stake in Dr Dish. He sits on Dr Dish’s board as chairman. Dr Dish is in talks with a local telco. Those are just facts, you decide what it means.