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Controversy as local VAS provider sues Makandiwa

As indicated in the last article we posted on the new “spiritual recharge cards” by a church leader in Harare, there’s some controversy building behind the service. The day after the launch was made, we were contacted by 3 individuals; a team comprising of a developer (James Ndukwane), a motivational speaker (Pascal Nyasha), and an investor (Hillary Chindodo), who basically claimed Makandiwa had stolen their concept.

According to the team, they have developed a Value Added Service (VAS) concept where, instead of getting a short code from a Mobile Network Operator (MNO), they print recharge cards and sell these to the subscribers wishing to register for mobile VAS content. This enables them to receive cash upfront when a subscriber buys the VAS recharge card. To receive the content, a subscriber sends a code on the card to a specified number and gets registered for content worth the value they bought the card for. US $3 for example, will subscribe a user to a month of content delivered once a day via SMS.

The reason for not using MNO supplied short codes has basically been that MNOs are taking the lion’s share of VAS revenue per transaction. One provider for example has been taking as much as 67% of each transaction.

Anyway, the Nyasha team has been targeting churches with the service. They basically approach church leaders and offer them the means to send church content to church members via mobile for a fee. The Nyasha team shares the revenue for each transaction with the church (or the church leader). They told us a whole list of churches that have agreed and will be launching the service in the coming weeks.

Here below for example is a card used by a church called Faith World Ministries. The card, as you may see, is also an advertising platform for companies. On this particular card is a Zim insurance company called Clarion

According to the Nyasha team, they presented the idea to Makandiwa and were led to believe the leader was interested and was preparing to use their service. To their surprise however, Makandiwa went on to launch his own version of the service (a more manual one) without them. Here’s Makandiwa’s version of the card:

Today’s Herald has details of the lawsuit against the church leader. He’s been slapped with a US$680,000 lawsuit by Nyasha for patrimonial loss and copyright infringement. Nyasha has also filed an urgent chamber application to bar the church leader from continuing with the “Spiritual Link” cards business.

By claiming the idea is theirs, the Nyasha team will obviously attract the attention of Zim’s telecoms regulator. POTRAZ is currently investigating Makandiwa for possible breach of the country’s telecoms regulations, and by extension, this means POTRAZ will be keen to question Nyasha’s team too.

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8 thoughts on “Controversy as local VAS provider sues Makandiwa

  1. Pascal and them were sloopy in pitching an idea with no set NDA. Let Potraz deal with him, go back to the drawing board and come up with a better concept, you can have a VPN linking your servers to a VAS in Lesotho for instance were a VAS there has an SMS gateway for as little as 15c (ZAR) per SMS. Have a cost based advantage…

  2. This is silly: they definitely weren’t the first people to come up with the idea of ‘by-passing’ the Network Provider (the reason it’s not popular is that the Celullar Network providers won’t allow it – they can simply tweak their Terms of Service to put a volume cap on outgoing/incoming SMSes -since it’s impossible to by-pass their infrastructure, they end up acting like cartels: taking 67%. But I digress).

    Also – can someone explain to these people the difference between copyright and patents. Did they have a patent on this non-original concept? I highly doubt it.

    How on earth did they arrive at the $680 000 figure? All this just boggles the mind

  3. In addition there is no way an MSISD can push so much SMS traffic. Am sure POTRAZ will have an issue later on the MNO. Actually coming to think of it, the guys system might not be able to push that much traffic…it might be a modem based..their business model would have failed in the 1st 6-8 months. . . Not much thought was done in to this.

  4. Copyright is on a individual basis and is on something you write.  An article, a book etc.  Think is valid till 50 years after you die.  So if you write a Novel and publish it or register it as a work then nobody else can then publish it and if tehy do you can sue them.

    Patent is an idea/invention.  It must be registered with a Patent office, I dont think there is one in Zim.  Its a complex legal process where you have to prove the idea is new and unique in some way.  Once Patent is registered then you own teh rights to implement that idea in the territory you register it.

    I imagine the lawsuit is utterly basless.

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