We recently wrote an article on the entrepreneur who claims to have had his idea stolen by Econet. This is alleged to have happened a few years back but the issue was taken to court last year. The complainant Ignatius Munengwa has now taken the issue to POTRAZ.
As reported by the Herald, Munengwa wrote a letter of complaint to POTRAZ who happens to be the regulator for all telecommunications companies and to us this issue was a bit confusing.
What can POTRAZ do in this situation?
You of course expect individuals to approach POTRAZ when they feel cheated by telcos or such. However, Munengwa’s issue is not simple.
He is accusing Econet of violation of intellectual property (i.e stealing an idea). This makes it a bit more unclear because we are not sure if POTRAZ can actually regulate such an incident or if they regulate incidents in relation to the quality of service and practices in direct relation to the quality of service.
If POTRAZ is not in a position to hold Econet accountable they would probably advise Munengwa to take Econet to court. The only problem with that is: Munengwa’s issue is already in the courts so it’s not really clear what POTRAZ will/can do to help resolve this issue.
At the time when we came across this news, we assumed that maybe Munengwa’s issue was not going well and he decided to pursue another regulatory body as a last-gasp attempt to make things right and get some compensation. We also thought maybe he was trying to garner some sympathy in the public domain.
Instead of asking these open-ended questions we contacted Munengwa to try and understand why he had made this move. He of course could not divulge much since this is an issue before the courts and probably involves confidential information. However, he made his intentions clear:
Munengwa felt it was key to notify POTRAZ (as they regulate the sector)
Where we thought POTRAZ could not do much since they are just the regulator of the industry, Munengwa made it clear that he approached them with this issue precisely because they are the regulator and he felt there was something to be gained from that. Munengwa felt that POTRAZ is more aware of the issues in relation to the telecommunications industry.
Munengwa, however, made it clear that the issue was still ongoing at the courts and disclosed that the next court appearance would be imminent. He made it clear that he was not giving up on the court but simply pursuing resolutions to the conflict from all possible angles.
This could be an attempt to put pressure on the High Court to rule in his favour. As impartial as the legal system is claimed or desired to be, we all know that it is composed of human beings like ourselves therefore any play to get the general public to react against Econet could bias the courts against the telco.
Some have suggested this could be a smear campaign against Econet but Ignatius says not at all.
Time is money
Munengwa shared that by reporting to POTRAZ he was trying to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible. He made it clear that the reason why most ‘small’ companies end up giving up on these type of court battles is because they don’t have the financial muscle to actually go through a drawn out court process whilst large companies like Econet can go the distance because they have the money.
What is not clear is how Munengwa expects the distance to be shortened by the involvement of POTRAZ. It’s not like POTRAZ can tell the High Court to step on the gas pedal or something. This would be interference with the judiciary and POTRAZ cannot do that. Or maybe…
Out of court settlement?
We asked Munengwa whether he was seeking to get an out of court settlement and he made it clear that though he had tried to settle this issue with Econet before going to the courts it had become clear to him that Econet did not want to resolve the issue with him. He cited the fact that he only resorted to going to the courts after reaching out to Econet multiple times before realising that he was not going to get any compensation from them in a more civil manner.
If Ignatius is still entertaining the possibility of an out of court settlement then maybe POTRAZ could make sense if he approached them to be an arbitrator. This would really be similar to you calling your aunt to mediate in an impasse with your spouse. It’s not because your aunt has ‘jurisdiction’ but that you and spouse respect aunt. In the case of Munengwa then this would be engaging auntie whilst divorce proceedings are still ongoing.
What is POTRAZ saying?
We have been trying to get a response from POTRAZ but so far we haven’t got any. If they respond to us we will update you obviously.
As they said when the issue first went to court last year, Econet are saying they cannot comment on a matter that is before the courts
We are not legal experts…
Because legal issues are not a particular focus of ours we thought it wise to reach out to some legal guys and we will be posting their perspective on this issue and that will probably inform you and us what POTRAZ can and can’t do.
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