Vodacom and I

Andrew Donaldson says when large organisations owe little guys money, they don’t like to pay it back


I WAS having a shower on Thursday morningwhen the water stopped. I was standing in a bucket covered in suds and, opening the taps for a quick rinse … nothing. Not a drop. Day Zero on my soapy backside.

I checked with the neighbours. They had water. So, Day Zero only on my soapy backside. 

I called the council. “I pay my bills,” I said. “Where’s my water?”

After taking down my address, the woman said, “Turnaround time is 24 to 48 hours. I’ve escalated your service request to an emergency.”

“What does that mean?”

“Twenty-four to 48 hours,” she said.

I called again yesterday. “Where’s my water?”

Same thing. “Turnaround time is 24 to 48 hours.”

But they duly arrived at about noon. It turned out the battery in the meter was flat. When the battery dies, the valve closes, and the council must send a crew out to replace the battery. 

Did you know meters had batteries? I didn’t. But I do now.

This sort of thing, I tell the regulars at the Mahogany Ridge, probably never happens to people like Shameel Joosub and Jimmy Mosefowa.


Well, Joosub is the CEO of Vodacom, a company that owes me a smallish fortune but won’t repay me. 

I don’t know if he’s still there, but Mosefowa worked in the office of the previous Johannesburg mayor, Parks Tau. They also owe me a lot of money.

It’s an odd thing, and you may have noticed this, but when large organisations owe little guys money, they don’t like to pay it back. In fact, they go out of their way to ensure that they’re never, ever repaid.

In January 2015, a person using my ID and bank details fraudulently took out a subscription and a 24-month handset instalment plan in my name. I discovered this in May 2017, and alerted Vodacom.

“Gosh,” I was told, “but you’re owed a lot of money.”

Vodacom, however, continued to bill me for two phones long after that. In July, for example, they took almost R830 from my bank account for this second phone. Whoever’s number was 071 605 8182 was having a great time at my expense, the chatty bastard.

I’ve since had many conversations with Vodacom’s fraud and forensic people, all admittedly quite friendly and apparently thorough in their work. They even described the fraudster as a short, bald man who lived on the East Rand. (Short and bald? This was probably code for a Nigerian national, but I wasn’t going to go there.)

What they have not been able to tell me, though, is exactly how much they owe me and when they will be returning it. 

It’s probably unfair to drag Joosub into this. But so what? He and his company have inadvertently profited from fraud. At my expense.

As for Mosefowa, he’s here because … well, it’s a long story, which I’ll keep short because rehashing the details will only cause further distress.

I sold my Johannesburg property in September 2013. In the transfer process I paid the city a refundable deposit of R14 436.19 for a rates clearance certificate.

This amount has yet to be refunded. To further rub it in, they continued to send me monthly statements for electricity, water and other municipal services.

They were ludicrously excessive. In February 2015, for example, they said I owed them R24 140. This was about the time the bald dwarf was having fun with his new phone.

Time and time again, I explained I no longer owned the property. All to no avail. On one occasion, one of their electricians called and said he’d been ordered to cut off my power, but if I could meet him later that afternoon, we could come to some sort of hush-hush cash arrangement…

I said I’d be there in two hours. Just to annoy him.

In July, one of many emails begging for my refund landed in Mosefowa’s inbox. It had been sent to him for “assistance and engagement” by one Shane Govender, someone fairly high up the food chain in the mayor’s office.

Mosefowa promptly forwarded it on to several other flunkies — and back to me, perhaps in error — with this note: “Colleagues. I would appreciate your advice on the matter.”

Since then, nothing.

What I did appreciate, however, was that Mosefowa had personalised his email signature. There, along with his telephone and fax numbers, was this helpful aphorism which offered some insight into the municipal work culture:

“If you are not critisized, you may not be doing much.” (sic)

I get the sentiment. But I wonder if criticism makes a difference. Probably not.

This article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.