South African communications minister, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri, has applied for the right to appeal a high court order preventing her from awarding the country's third cellular phone license, her spokesman said Tuesday.
A the statement stated the minister wanted the constitutional court, the highest court in the country, to set aside an interim order blocking her from naming the third license holder.
The interim order was obtained in July by Nextcom, a consortium backed by interests in Hong Kong. It suspended a recommendation by the independent South African Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (SATRA) that the minister award the license to the group Cell-C, which is backed by interests in Saudi Arabia.
The tender process for the third license has been dogged by controversy and claims of corruption. Nextcom has alleged that Matsepe-Casaburri interfered with the independent body's decision-making process.
The consortium obtained the interim order preventing her from awarding the license pending an application by the group for a review of the whole bidding process, due in September.
Granting the order, Pretoria high court acting judge, Nico Coetzee, said he was satisfied that Nextcom's application would be successful. But Sokutu's statement said the judgment raised several constitutional issues regarding the minister's powers, and Matsepe-Casaburri would argue that it contravened the provisions of the country's telecommunications act.
Cell-C's Saudi Arabian backer, Saudi Oger, has promised massive investment in South Africa if Cell-C wins the tender. The government has been anxious to press ahead with awarding the license.
SATRA has twice recommended the licence be awarded to Cell C.
The consortium is 60 percent owned by Saudi Oger, while NextCom is 40 percent owned by Hong Kong-based Distacom Group.
South Africa's cellular telephone market is expected to be worth 15 billion rand ($2 billion, 2.1 billion euros) by 2003, according to media reports.
Nine groups initially submitted tenders ― two withdrew and one was disqualified. – (AFP, Pretoria)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )