A KwaZulu Natal-based small business is involved in a fierce battle with mobile phone giant Vodacom after settling out of court with Sweden’s telecoms giant Ericsson.

Peet and Heidi-Anne Thuynsma, owners and founders of MDPS (Mobile Diesel Power Systems), have been fighting Vodacom for close to three years.

The central claim is that Vodacom suspended its services after false claims related to buying diesel for running the mobile phone operators’ generators for its mobile phone towers in KwaZulu Natal. MDPS has never made any admissions to the fraud allegations.

The mobile phone operator said it received summons on 28 November. MDPS is claiming R276 489.15 in respect of monies that it alleges is due for services and/or equipment. The operator also said MDPS is further claiming about R97 million in respect of damages which it alleges it has suffered.

MDPS had to close down and the owners were forced to sell most of the vehicles and generators while their staff were left without work.

The collapse of MDPS had a huge ripple effect in the community of Margate, in KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.

For more read: Couple Sues Vodacom For Close to R100m

Vodacom has admitted it was aware of the legal action taken against it by MDPS. However, the telco said last week it would defend the action.

A parliamentarian says “what we see here is a cover-up when it comes to dealing with the issue of MDPS and Ericcson”.

The chairperson of the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development Ruth Bhengu described the situation as ‘hopeless’ in the recordings obtained by TechFinancials.

In the clip, Bhengu says: “There are Vodacom managers involved. So Vodacom and Ericcson trying, by all means, to cover up and sacrifice MDPS.

“If this process has taken up two and a half years, how long will the litigation and arbitration go to take?

“There will be lights out by that time, but that’s the understanding and also the timing the will be a different committee (Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development).  I may not be sitting on this thing with this deep understanding of the matters.”

Listen below:

Bhengu was speaking at the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development sitting earlier this year to address issues concerning Vodacom, MDPS, Mobax and Ericcson.

The Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development heard briefings from Vodacom, Ericsson, Mobax and also Huawei, Telkom and Digiwire Technology. These briefings were follow-ups from previous meetings and included the matters relating to Neela Trading and MDPS.

The issues were related to big business that subcontracted management services and the problems that arose from the engagement between the management service and the small businesses. The Committee was angered by the way in which big business seemed to treat small businesses and had no qualms in seeing small businesses forced to close down. The Committee queried whether big businesses adhered to the laws of the country in respect of the implementation of the government policies and transformation

In the recordings, Themba Kinana, the Executive for Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement and Corporate Affairs at Vodacom, and Lynda Marthinus, Executive Head: Black Empowerment Enterprise at Vodacom, admitted that the case with MDPS was not handled correctly.

Since then Vodacom has been ducking and diving.

Kinana and Marthinus promised Bhengu that they will sort out the issue with MDPS within seven days.

A bizarre confession by Vodacom Manager

Instead, MDPS has been wiped out as predicted by Bhengu and now they have served summons to Vodacom. – lourie@techfinancials.co.za

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