THERE is need to start mobilising local investors and individuals to take over Zamtel in case economic sanctions on Libya incapacitate its operations, says Enoch Kavindele.

The future of Zamtel under LAP Green continues to be embroiled in uncertainty as its main investment funds become a target of economic sanctions being imposed on Libya's embattled regime of Muammar Gaddafi.

LAP Green owns 75 per cent of Zamtel after buying the country's sole fixed line operator at US $257 million in a controversial deal criticised by key stakeholders and opposition political parties.

Libyan Investment Authority (LAP Green Network) is a component of the Libya-Africa Investment Portfolio, which is part of the Libyan Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund for Libya.

Commenting on the development, Kavindele, a former Republican vice-president, said the threat on Zamtel's future through international mobilisation to incapacitate business interests of Gaddafi and his inner circle was real.

Kavindele said there was need for the country to act proactively to ensure Zamtel remained afloat in an event that "the worse comes to the worst" in Libya.
Kavindele, chairman of Vodacom Zambia, said Zambia could not escape a global decision on Libya.

He said he was willing to take the lead in looking for local investors and individuals to raise capital and ensure the country's biggest telecoms company remained on the growth path.

"Vodacom Zambia would like to mobilise Zambian investors and individuals to make a bid for running of Zamtel in the event that UN sanctions extend to Libya investment in LAP Green," Kavindele said. "We need to be proactive so that we ensure that Zamtel remains afloat and to ensure that the asset can revert to its owners - the Zambian people."

Last month, UN Security Council unanimously imposed travel and asset sanctions on Gaddafi and his close aides, ratcheting up pressure on him to quit and halt further bloodshed in a popular revolt against his rule.

The European Union has extended its economic sanctions against Libya to include the country's sovereign wealth fund and Central Bank.

Three other financial "entities" will also be targeted. The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) wealth fund holds about $70bn (£43bn) and has stakes in a number of large European companies.

The US has already frozen about US $30 billion of Libyan assets, including those of the LIA and Central Bank.

South African President Jacob Zuma has ordered the Treasury to freeze assets linked to Gaddafi and his associates.

And Kavindele said Zamtel would find it difficult to mobilise money for expansion of the network once the effects of the UN-led sanctions took their toll.

"In the event sanctions are imposed, LAP Green Zambia will find it difficult to operate because it's most likely that the large foreign-owned banks will themselves not extend any support to LAP Green," Kavindele said.

ZDA director general Andrew Chipwende recently said Zamtel was "safe" in the hands of LAP Green and that as a company, "it can even raise third party funding even if it was to stand alone as it has been fully cleaned up."

In September 2009, Kavindele, through Vodacom Zambia lost a bid to run a fourth cellular mobile phone in the country following a decision of the Supreme Court.
Former communications minister Dora Siliya said Vodacom Zambia's licence was cancelled to protect Zamtel, which at the time, was threatened "with closure and all workers would have lost jobs if Vodacom was allowed to operate".

Since the sale of Zamtel, President Rupiah Banda banned the issuance of another mobile phone licence until 2015 to ensure Zamtel found "its feet".

Most analysts, however, contend that President Banda's move abrogated local laws governing competition practices.