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JOHANNESBURG -  Cell C, South Africa’s third-largest telecoms company today announced changes to its board, including the appointment of a new chairman and board member representatives from shareholders Blue Label Telecoms and Net1.

Cell C, South Africa's third-biggest mobile operator is grappling with an R9 billion debt and has lost market share to its peers MTN and Vodacom. Cell C’s 2011 tower agreements and other risk-based pricing on certain contracts have created significant financial drag on the business.

Cell C confirmed earlier this month that it was in discussions with MTN regarding an extended roaming agreement which was mutually beneficial to both parties. 

“We will not comment further as discussions are still in progress,” Cell C said. MTN also confirmed the talks and said an extended roaming agreement was at an advanced stage.

“We are currently in discussions with Cell C regarding a revised agreement and how MTN can continue to work with Cell C. We believe there are still opportunities to pursue - to the benefit of both businesses," an MTN spokesperson said. 

Existing Cell C Board member, Joe Mthimunye will take over as non-executive chairman effective 20 November 2019.

Following his two-year term, outgoing Chairman, Kuben Pillay, has agreed to remain in the position until a handover process has been concluded.

Cell C said in a statement, "The Board would like to thank Pillay for his strong and ethical leadership which has strengthened governance within Cell C.  He was instrumental in building sound relationships with Cell C’s key stakeholders." 

Mthimunye, a Chartered Accountant (SA), is a co-founder and former partner of Gobodo Incorporated, a forerunner to SNG Grant Thorton.   He is currently Executive Chairman of aloeCap Proprietary Limited and an independent non-executive director on the Blue Label Telecoms Board.  He also serves on the Board of directors of various non-listed companies in which aloeCap is invested.

In addition to Mthimunye’s appointment, Blue Label Telecoms and Net1 have nominated new directors as shareholder representatives on the Cell C Board.  Gary Harlow and Jerry Vilakazi will replace Brett Levy and Mark Levy as the Blue Label Telecoms representatives, while Paul Edwards will replace Herman Kotze on behalf of Net1.

Harlow is a Chartered Accountant (SA), an associate of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK) and a fellow chartered management accountant (UK). He is currently the executive Chairman of Unihold Limited, where he led the transformation from an engineering conglomerate to an International IT and telecommunications group in the role of CEO prior to its delisting through a management buyout.  Harlow has served on numerous private and public company Boards.

Vilakazi is currently the executive Chairman of Palama Group of companies which he co-founded. He previously served as CEO of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA).  He is also the Chair of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), Mpumalanga Gambling Board and Trubok (Proprietary) Limited.  Over the years he has held various Chairman and directorship roles at companies in the construction, gaming, mining, retail, recruitment and training industries.  

Edwards career has spanned Africa and Asia and covers banking systems, satellite TV, electronic media, telecommunications and payments. He is a former CEO of Multichoice, Johnnic, MTN and Chairman of Starcomms, a Nigerian telecommunications company.  He is currently Deputy Chairman of Nasdaq-listed NET1 UEPS, Chairman of ZappGroup Africa and Equilibre Bio-energy Productional and Director of Mauritius and JSE-listed Lighthouse Capital. He has a BSc and MBA from the University of Cape Town.

Cell C said in a statement, "The Cell C Board is grateful for the contributions of outgoing Board members over the last two years and welcomes the incoming Board members." 

Earlier this month, MTN has indicated that it would likely help troubled Cell C where it made economic sense.  MTN SA chief executive Godfrey Motsa said if Cell C failed, it would not only affect the company's thousands of employees but others who are dependent on it. 

“It’s not MTN’s responsibility to save Cell C, but surely we can do something from our side,” he said. “But it has to be in the right economics,” Motsa said.

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