In late March 2012, Reunert announced that it had instituted proceedings against John Holdsworth, seeking to enforce contractual restraint of trade and confidentiality undertakings given by Holdsworth in favour of Reunert. This followed Reunert’s acquisition of the ECN Telecommunications business in June last year.
Reunert was due to file a replying affidavit to the court on Tuesday (8 May 2012); however, the group cited a late document submission by Holdsworth for missing the deadline.
“Holdsworth’s Rule 35(12) declaration was received late, so Reunert will only have the opportunity to inspect those documents today (Wednesday, 9 May). Once our attorneys have inspected Holdsworth’s documents, we will file our reply,” a spokesperson told BusinessTech.
However, Holdsworth fired back: “Reunert’s comment is transparent nonsense – the Rule 35(12) request contained a unilaterally imposed time limit and the response was made in accordance with the Rules of Court. Reunert is now out of time for the filing of its replying affidavit as set by order of court and will have to apply for condonation by the court for the late filing of its replying affidavit.”
“Reunert is simply engaging in delaying tactics. Indeed on the 18 April 2012, Andy Openshaw, the Nashua ECN managing director, told staff members who had resigned from the company that the court case would not end on 29 May, but would go on for weeks or months. Reunert could stretch things out indefinitely if it wanted to, and Appchat could not afford to fight a long legal battle and would run out of money. Further, the case might not even start on the 29 (May), because the Judge President has not confirmed the date,” Holdsworth said.
The AppChat head added: “I suspect that Reunert’s 35(12) request was just an attempt to buy time, and is just part of larger strategy to delay the process and frustrate AppChat. Indeed, in the afternoon of the 9th of May, and after the time set by court order for the filing of Reunert’s replying affidavit, a further Rule 35(12) notice from Reunert was served.”
The North Gauteng High Court ruled on 17 April 2012 that Holdsworth and AppChat were prohibited from employing any of the employees or former employees of Reunert until a hearing was held towards the end of May.
The Court also directed Holdsworth to abide by the terms of the restraint contained in his contract of employment with Reunert.
However, the AppChat founder told MyBroadband BusinessTech that he did not believe that he was in breach of any restraints, and he would therefore conduct his business as usual at AppChat until a court ruling on the matter.
Following Reunert’s initial proceedings against Holdsworth in March, the AppChat CEO said that “Reunert is a large listed company and is simply conducting itself as the proverbial corporate bullyboy, using ECN, a fixed-line operator, as a proxy for one of its other companies, Nashua Mobile, in order to stifle future competition in the mobile market”.
Holdsworth highlighted that the court did not make a ruling on the restraint. “Therefore abiding by the restraint in the interim is completely open to the interpretation of the parties,” said Holdsworth.
“Our view is that we are not in breach of any restraints and do not intend to breach any of the restraints, therefore as far as we are concerned it is business as usual until the 29th,” he said.
Reunert and AppChat will be back in court on 29 May 2012.