Praveen Maharaj on Wednesday dismissed reports linking him to death threats made in a WhatsApp Group against MDPS (Mobile Diesel Power Systems).
Maharaj, who is a regional manager of Mobax for the Eastern Region off KwaZulu-Natal, said through his lawyers in an email to TechFinancials that he vehemently denies ever having made any of the published statements.
Earlier this month, TechFinancials issued a report detailing death threats against MDPS in a WhatsApp Group. The correspondence was shared by a concerned WhatsApp group member to the owners of MDPS, who later shared it with Vodacom KZN and the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development.
As a result, MDPS is suing Vodacom for close to R100 million in damages. They claim their services were suspended overnight by Vodacom leaving them with bad debts. For more read: Couple Sues Vodacom For Close to R100m
The conversation was among the staff members of the WhatsApp Group of Vodacom and Ericsson management. And a concerned member of this group made screenshots of this conversation and sent it to the owners of MDPS, Peet and Heidi-Anne Thuynsma, warning them of these death threats.
The WhatsApp messages screenshots, read:
“if you need us … one call.
“We smaak killing owes.
“If you want a got my granballies 405 hunting rifle … “Unlicensed off course.
“AKs phone does not graf how he’s going to call 911 lol “He’s dead” (with two smiley emojis)
For more read: “We Smaak Killing Owes”, A ‘Vodacom Manager’ Threatens MDPS
At the time of the publication of the report, asked about the death threats, Vodacom fingered Praveen Maharaj as being involved in the WhatsApp Group without TechFinancials mentioning his name.
Vodacom was asked if it’s aware of this allegation which according to the WhatsApp screenshots were made by a Vodacom Manager in a Group chat.
Vodacom responded, “Yes. Praveen Maharaj was working for Ericsson at the time, not Vodacom. “
When asked if Vodacom investigated the threatening messages and if so, what did it conclude, Vodacom stated: “Vodacom escalated the matter with Ericsson at the time (Praveen Maharaj’s employer), and would request that any further questions in this regard are directed to Ericsson.”
Ericsson was subcontracted by Vodacom. MDPS had two contracts, one with Vodacom and one with Ericsson. Vodacom brought Ericsson, now Mobax, to manage some divisions.
Further asked whether Vodacom was trying to shift the responsibility to Ericsson to deal with the death threats made by a Vodacom ‘employee’ and so-called ‘unlicensed firearm’, the spokesperson of the mobile phone operator, said: “Vodacom does not comment on hearsay and rejects the inference that it is simply seeking to shift blame in this matter.”
However, TechFinancials emphasised in the report that the Ericsson employee (Maharaj) was just part and parcel of this WhatsApp Group, which consisted of Vodacom and Ericsson employees. The death threats were made by a Vodacom manager, it is alleged.
On Wednesday, Maharaj through his lawyers further stated: “Our client vehemently denies ever having made any of the published statements, which would have been proven to be false, had our client been contacted prior to the publication of your article to test the veracity of the statements and information you received.”
The lawyers added: “The subjective way in which your article is worded, leads the ordinary and reasonable reader to believe that the statements mentioned therein emanated from our client and accordingly casts aspersions on him, which has consequently resulted in prejudice and defamation of our client.”