Paratus and CoW clash
14 February 2020 | Infrastructure
Paratus employees who were digging trenches for fiber-optic connections in the capital yesterday, were stopped when equipment and the contractor's truck were seized by City Police.
Although a document stamped by the Windhoek City Council on December 12 last year, states that Paratus has permission to make the connection in Nelson Mandela Drive, the employees were informed that they were in violation of a bylaw of the local authorities’ act.
According to Paratus managing director, Mr Andrew Hall, no one from the city council could say exactly what the bylaw entails, but that the CoW is of the opinion that " Paratus does damage to the sidewalks when they lay the cables". Yet the stamped document clearly states that the CoW realises that the work relates to laying pipes, tunnels or tubes that are necessary to provide telecommunications facilities.
“This requires construction to be carried out underground, roads or sidewalks," according to the document.
According to Hall, Paratus filed an application for this connection last year and which was approved. Hall argues that in terms of section 62, Paratus has the mandate to make these connections.
He acknowledged that they (Paratus) received a letter on Wednesday that they were in violation of the bylaw "but we decided to continue with the work because we followed all the steps correctly and got the necessary permission," he said. According to him, there was no reason not to continue with the work.
Paratus has many projects and this incident can put them behind schedule for up to two weeks. "It seems to be a tactic of City Council to slow us down and it has a tremendous impact on our operations," Hall said.
Paratus received a letter from the City in 2018 stating that their applications will not be approved in the future because the CoW itself wants to start competing with them. "As seen in the media, the City has advertised for an Expression of Interest to commercialize our Optic Fibre Network, which will see an upgrade on and expansion of our existing fibre infrastructure in order to achieve the same goal as you,” the letter read.
“Since your project conflicts with Council’s intended project and neither has your company participated in our Expression of Interest invitation, the City cannot authorize your company to install further access or any fibre infrastructure on any of the City’s Servitudes, Public Spaces or roads within the boundaries and jurisdiction of the city of Windhoek for this directly jeopardizes Council’s strategic intentions stated in our Transformation Strategic Plan 2017 – 2022,” according to the document.
Yet, according to Hall, City Council is not in possession of a telecommunications license. "Council applied for the license only last year," Hall explained.
After the altercation yesterday morning, Paratus employees gathered with Hall at City Council offices so that all equipment confiscated by the police could be recorded.
Phone calls to the City of Windhoek communications officer remained unanswered, while questions sent via email regarding what the bylaw entails, were not responded to before going to print.
Communications authority CRAN had also not responded to enquiries regarding the City’s application for the Telecommunication license.