Be careful who you work for. It took me almost four months, and two rounds in the Small Claims Court to get paid R5,500 by Denel contractor Yaha Designs for the editorial work I did for the March edition of Denel’s monthly newsletter.
Yaha Designs is a “PR media relations” company that Denel contracted at the end of last year to produce their newsletters, although it’s immediately apparent from its website, www.yaha.co.za, that their only real offering is litho and digital printing, which in any event, is outsourced.
Nomsa Humphrey and Prudence Mnusi from Yaha Designs contacted me in December, having been referred to me by a newspaper colleague, to edit and write for the December edition of the Denel newsletter. The deadline was ridiculously tight – three days – and against my better judgment, I agreed to do it.
My price was beaten down by Humphrey to a nominal R5,500 per newsletter, and I managed to deliver all Denel’s edited content in time, together with the ghostwritten editorials for Denel Group CEO Zwelakhe Ntshepe and for Vuyelwa Qinga, Denel’s group executive of communications and public affairs. The newsletter was published, and all was well, until work started for the next newsletter.
As before, I edited and delivered all content sent to me by Denel group’s internal communication specialist Adelaide Rabotho, and ghostwrote Qinga’s editorial. Ntshepe’s editorial just needed editing this time. But on inquiring about the status of the newsletter, I was simply informed by Humphrey that the “client doesn’t like the writing”, with no further explanation. In a phone call a few days later, I was bluntly told by her sidekick Mnusi, that I would not be paid.
I lodged a complaint at the Small Claims Court, and at the second hearing on April 18, the court commissioner was presented with the published version of the March newsletter. It didn’t take him long to realise that my edited work had been published virtually unchanged, including most of my ghost editorial for Qinga. He also established that Yaha Designs had already been paid R40,000 by Denel for this newsletter. “The court finds little difficulty finding in favour of the plaintiff,” said the commissioner.
Not to be kowtowed by a mere court ruling to pay me, however, Humphrey simply defied it. Thus I applied to the SCC for a warrant of execution, and also emailed Black Umbrellas, a PPP “incubation” project to develop black entrepreneurs. Yaha Designs is on their programme.
I asked Black Umbrellas’ regional manager, Mzingaya Kahla, how its incubatees are screened, and he responded: “We run a paid incubation programme where clients pay to utilise our services. We run credit and criminal checks on all our clients to ensure they are law-abiding citizens. We however do not form part of their business dealings as they are independent entities and we only provide them with business support services.”
Nonetheless, Kahla called Humphrey and Mnusi asking them to explain themselves, and ten minutes later I received a notification of payment for the work I did for them. Note to self: if it’s tainted by state capture, even by extension, don’t touch it!
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