On Tuesday, WirelessG CEO Carel van der Merwe said in comments e-mailed to TechCentral that Vodacom had “reached a state of total incompetence” and said the mobile operator was “heading for a cultural crisis and suicide”.
Van der Merwe e-mailed the remarks after WirelessG’s attorneys issuing a letter to Vodacom’s legal team accusing the operator of failing to comply with “specific directives issued by deputy judge-president Willem van der Merwe”.
WirelessG has taken Vodacom to court, accusing the company of reneging on a shareholders’ agreement that grants it exclusivity over any Wi-Fi infrastructure the mobile operator wants to build.
Van der Merwe told TechCentral in January that Vodacom had begun to backtrack on the agreements between the parties after it realised that “data offloading” onto Wi-Fi from its mobile broadband network was becoming a significant strategic opportunity.
He claimed that Vodacom had held discussions with a number of WirelessG’s rivals in 2012 and also ran pilot Wi-Fi projects late last year without involving the company, in contravention of the shareholders’ agreement.
A letter from JJR Inc, which has been retained by WirelessG, to Cliff Dekker Hofmeyr, Vodacom’s legal representatives in the case, says the mobile operator’s group CEO Shameel Joosub failed to sign his answering affidavit. “The content thereof could, at this stage, be amended by him or parts thereof deleted or aspects inserted. Our client is severely prejudiced as a result of this,” the letter states.
It adds that Vodacom’s answering affidavit was not served on JJR Inc’s offices “as per the directive of the deputy judge-president”.
“We only extracts from your answering affidavit via e-mail on 11 February 2013. We record that we have up to now neither received your answering affidavit nor did you comply with the directive of the deputy judge-president.”
JJR Inc says in the letter that its client’s view is this is “another example” of Vodacom’s “attempts to unnecessarily delay the proceedings”.
In his comments e-mailed to TechCentral, Van der Merwe says: “They [Vodacom] renege on agreements and now even think they can operate above the law. They cannot execute their CEO’s instructions to execute a shareholders’ agreement [and] neither can they execute the directives provided by court to deliver their response in time and according to good practice.”
Vodacom spokesman Richard Boorman says Van der Merwe’s comments are “very much wide of the mark”.
“The matter is proceeding and we’re not going to get drawn into commenting on each stage of the legal process.”
Despite the growing animosity, Van der Merwe says he still hopes to reach a negotiated settlement with Vodacom when the two parties meet on 20 February. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media