TELKOM’S SHORT STRAW

For rea­sons yet to be prop­erly ex­plained, Telkom froze pay­ments to a small Pre­to­ria sup­plier — and the owner sold his home to stay afloat

Financial Mail - - EDITOR’S NOTE - @ro­brose_za [email protected]

If 2018 has brought home one bru­tal truth, it’s that the be­havioural gap be­tween the pri­vate sec­tor and pub­lic sec­tor isn’t as vast as peo­ple used to think. Cor­rup­tion? Sure, you can find that in Nkandla, but you can just as eas­ily find it in Stein­hoff’s ac­counts. Ly­ing liars? Again, you can pick Malusi Gi­gaba or Batha­bile Dlamini, or you could look at the KPMG ac­coun­tants who “au­dited” VBS Mu­tual Bank.

An­other charge is rou­tinely lev­elled at the gov­ern­ment: re­fus­ing to pay what it owes, and stomp­ing on small busi­nesses in the process.

Again, it isn’t just the gov­ern­ment do­ing this. Take Telkom, which, court pa­pers al­lege, folded its arms and re­fused to pay the fi­nal chunk of a R41.2m con­tract it struck with Pre­to­ria busi­ness owner Nico Oosthuizen. Telkom ap­par­ently still owes more than R6m.

Oosthuizen has been around the block, hav­ing be­gun his ca­reer 48 years ago as a tech­ni­cal sup­port en­gi­neer at Con­trol Data Corp. But his for­tunes took a turn for the worse in July 2016, when his com­pany Netx­com ICT So­lu­tions did a deal with Telkom to pro­vide hard­ware and soft­ware to man­age band­width use. The SA Po­lice Ser­vice (SAPS) needed the tech, so it asked Telkom, which sub­con­tracted to Netx­com.

For a while, all went well. Netx­com pro­vided the ser­vice, and Telkom paid up. Then the che­ques dried up. Oosthuizen’s lawyers wrote to Telkom, ask­ing what had hap­pened. But, they say, Telkom ig­nored them.

The fail­ure to pay in full was a blow to Oosthuizen, whose busi­ness took a dive. “I had to sell my house, as

It’s not as if Telkom did any­thing — it sub­con­tracted the ac­tual work and added on a 37% mark-up

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