Africell Uganda employees in court over termination of contracts

Why Africell is exiting Uganda's telecom market after 7 years of service
Africell Uganda head offices in Kampala

Kampala, Uganda | URN | At least 15 employees of Africell Uganda Limited have petitioned the Civil Division of the High Court challenging wrongful termination of their contracts. Led by Teddy Kisekka, the applicants want the court to declare that they were unlawfully terminated from their jobs.

As such, they want the court to order Africell Uganda Limited to pay them severance allowances, payment in lieu of notice, payment of terminal and benefits and redundancy pay among others approximated at Shillings one billion.

Through their lawyers of Cristal Advocates, the petitioners contend that they have been employed by Africell in various capacities for varying periods ranging from 10 and 15 years under Africell, which has had different names including among others Hits Telecom Uganda Limited, Orange Uganda Limited and Africell Uganda Limited.

They say that on September 10th 2021, the company served them with letters indicating that Africell Uganda Limited was stopping its operations in Uganda effective October 7th 2021, and terminating their employment effective November 30th 2021.

They note that Africell Uganda Limited is in the final stages of closing its business operations and exiting the jurisdiction of Ugandan Courts and is clandestinely disposing off its known assets in Uganda. “That I know of several clandestine and secret manoeuvres by the Respondent (Africell) to secretly and speedily sell-off or divest their interest in and disposal of several properties, which they own or have an interest in,” reads the petition.

Last month, Africell Uganda released a statement indicating that it is exiting Uganda because of stiff competition and high indebtedness. They cited a debt of Shillings 250 billion and a loss of more than Shillings 1.5 trillion that was reported in 2019 and was allegedly inherited about eight years ago when they bought Orange telecom.

Kisekka further notes that Africell has extended private invitations to potential buyers to acquire its fleet of motor vehicles.

“Private invitations have been extended to individuals and companies including a number to selected employees of the Respondent/Africell to purchase and acquire the Respondent’s fleet of motorcycles. The Respondent is in advanced stages of disposing off its client’s database to an enterprise only identified as Blue Crane Communications,” adds the affidavit.

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According to Kisekka, Africell has also resorted to secretive methods of disposing off their assets as opposed to public auctions and advertising in order to defeat the claimants and potential legal proceedings. As such, the employees want the court to order Africell to produce and place at the disposal of the High Court, six properties or their value, which they say is likely to be sufficient to satisfy the decree in the main suit seeking compensation.

They include one Mobile Switching Centre, One Home Subscriber Center, Nine Base Station Controllers and monitors 2G sites, which are nine in number. The others are four radio network controllers, four 3G site monitors, 440 3G site monitors and 600 2G monitors.

They also want an order for attachment of two bank accounts in Stanbic Bank or in the alternative, court directs the company to deposit Shillings One billion with the court to force the company not to run away before concluding the legal battle.

The court is yet to summon Africell Uganda Limited to file its defence before the matter is fixed for hearing.