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$800K Lawsuit: Econet Wireless Sued for 'Stealing Business Concept'

Harare - It seems Econet Wireless is now spending more time engaged in court battles.  Years after a grueling battle to obtain an operati...

Harare - It seems Econet Wireless is now spending more time engaged in court battles. 

Years after a grueling battle to obtain an operating licence for his mobile business, the Strive Masiyiwa entity is facing another battle for television license, under Kwese TV.

Back then, Masiyiwa appealed to the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe, on the basis that the refusal constituted a violation of 'freedom of expression'. The Zimbabwean court ruled in his favour after a five-year legal battle, which took him to the brink of bankruptcy.

The ruling, which led to the removal of the state monopoly in telecommunications, is regarded as one of the key milestones in opening the African telecommunications sector to private capital. The company's first cellphone subscriber was connected to the new network in 1998.

And that is not all.
Econet Wireless in Another Court Battle 

Now, a local businessman, Ignatius Munengwa, has sued, Econet Wireless (Private) Ltd demanding $870 375 damages for alleged theft of his panic button business concept by the mobile telecommunications provider.

Munengwa last week issued the summons through his firm M-Comm Africa (Private) Ltd, and Econet Wireless is yet to enter an appearance to defend notice.

In his declaration, Munengwa said sometime in 2011, he conceived an innovative service whereby mobile phone subscribers would use their phones as a panic button in the event of a security breach.

On October 18, 2011, the businessman said he then approached Econet Wireless to collaborate with his firm on the launch of his innovative service whereupon he exchanged emails with Econet’s high-ranking officials namely Fungayi Mandivheyi, Francis Mwale and Darlington Mandivenga.

“The parties [Munengwa and Econet top brass] reached an oral agreement in terms of which the plaintiff [Munengwa] would disclose the full details of the panic button service to the defendant [Econet Wireless] and in the event that the project was implemented jointly, the parties would share the proceeds on a 60:40 ratio...

However, there were disagreements.

“… the parties later were in discussion from 2012 to 2014 and a lot of plaintiff’s proprietary information was disclosed to defendant. In breach of the oral agreement to jointly work on the project, the defendant proceeded to launch its connected home service, incorporating the panic button service in 2015 without the consent or authority of the plaintiff,” he said.

Further and alternatively, Munengwa said Mwale and Mandivenga allegedly induced him to disclose the full scope and functionality of his innovation by sending him Econet’s standard non-disclosure agreement for signature and submission on the pretext that they would also sign the same.

“Plaintiff acted in the belief that defendant was bound by the non-disclosure agreement and that defendant would not circumvent plaintiff in the implementation of the project. The defendant, after inducing the disclosure by the plaintiff, further misrepresented through its chief commercial officer....,” Munengwa said.

He added that he was financially prejudiced.

“Defendant then dishonestly and with intent to prejudice the plaintiff went on to incorporate the panic button innovation in its connected home service which it launched in 2015. The fraudulent incorporation of plaintiff’s innovation in defendant’s service caused the plaintiff to suffer

“$870 375 financial prejudices because the innovation had a commercial value, and defendant had, through one Brighton from the finance team, accepted the financial projections tendered by plaintiff.,” Munengwa said. - Online Sources

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