Peter van der Merwe
Peter van der Merwe

MTN reveals the meaning of Ayoba

So cellular giant MTN has finally revealed the massive scam behind its supremely irritating Ayoba campaign: this Christmas, 500 employees will be getting job cuts in their stockings.

Ayoba, we are told, means “super-cool”. And by extension, everything about MTN is cool. What a hideous joke. There is nothing cool about hacking jobs for Christmas because CEO Phuthuma Nhleko and his overpaid executive cronies want another Land Rover or two.

The reason for the job cuts, we are told, is tough economic conditions. Puh-lease. MTN is not losing money. Their own results released in August tell us that the company’s revenues for the previous year were R57.3 billion, with shareholders pocketing a healthy R3.63 per share for their diligent efforts.

So the company is actually making a sickening amount of money. Sure, its profits may be slightly lower than in previous years. No shit. We’re in the middle of a recession. But the fact is, MTN is still coining it. In a big way. So to slash jobs when you’re making billions is just mind-bogglingly insensitive. Corporate greed is not just alive and well, but beating the living daylights out of your average employee.

I understand perfectly well that a major reason for business is to make money. But what MTN fails to grasp is the fact that the moment you hire people, and put their careers and wellbeing in your hands, you take on a far greater responsibility than purely delivering profits. You don’t commit to triple bottom-line responsibilities on the one hand, and then trash people’s careers and lives to save a few bucks on the other.

MTN’s PR lackeys tell us the company will be giving the affected employees two weeks’ pay for each year of service. Wow. With billions in profit stashed away, do you think you can spare it? That may be the legal requirement, but in truth, it’s risible. Ayoba, my sweet ass.

Unlike the 500 people who were unfortunate enough to believe that MTN is an employer of choice, Nhleko won’t be losing any sleep this Christmas. Last year, his remuneration package was in the region of R16 million. We can only speculate as to what MTN SA CEO Karel Pienaar, and the rest of his smug executive cohorts, earn. Nhleko would be sickeningly wealthy even if he earned just a quarter of his current package — and that would free up R12 million to keep 15 or 20 people in jobs. He certainly won’t be worrying how to pay his bond in February. I’m all right, Jack.

Fact is, the economic downturn reason given by MTN simply doesn’t hold water. How tight can things really be when you have tens of millions of rands hanging around to sponsor limited-overs cricket? Hell, they even sponsor professional cycling. And then there’s that supremely over-the-top Ayoba campaign, which sure as heck isn’t coming cheap.

I cannot even start to imagine the amount of money being pissed … I mean, poured into this campaign. Sure, they want to attract new customers. But their moral obligation is to look after their own people first. And I, for one, will certainly not do business with a company which thinks it’s in any way acceptable to retrench people, just before Christmas, when they are still making money hand over fist.

So every time you hear the word Ayoba, think of the 500 families who will be facing an uncertain future this Christmas while the MTN fatcats slurp Johnnie Walker Black and flaunt their millions. Now that’s Ayoba.