Unilever, Cele spin doctor in court spat

2012-05-31 00:00

CONSUMABLE goods giant Unilever and the spin doctor of suspended police commissioner General Bheki Cele have traded lawsuits over a major deodorant marketing campaign run five years ago.

Vuyo Mkhize and his company Kapital Mindz were slapped with a demand for R4,6 million from Unilever in 2009, two years after managing a promotion to punt Axe deodorant.

Mkhize, accused by Unilever of nearly sabotaging the project, responded with a counter claim of R7,6 million.

He insists he carried out all the terms of the agreement and was owed money by Unilever for setting up a trip for competition winners and DJs to Spanish party capital Ibiza.

The trial was scheduled to begin yesterday in the Durban high court, but proceedings were hampered by a Unilever application to split the merits of the case from the quantum in order to squeeze the matter into three days.

Mkhize’s advocate Griffit Madonsela opposed the application and asked the court to reschedule a trial date, arguing he need at least a week to lead evidence and cross examine witnesses. Although acting judge Peter Olsen made note of the congested court roll, he sided with Madonsela and adjourned the matter. A return date has not been set.

Unilever’s advocate John Pammenter withdrew the application, meaning the merits and damages claims will be considered together.

Court papers allege that Unliver had paid Mkhize R2 665 557 to cover guests’ accommodation and the hire of a charter jet for a promotional campaign to Spain.

However, when the group arrived at the airport on August 18, 2007, they found the charter firm had withdrawn the aircraft because it had not been paid. Unilever contends it paid R4 620 400 to salvage the trip, the amount it is now seeking from Mkhize, Kapital Mindz and company director Mamoeletsi Mosia.

Mkhize, chairperson of Kapital Mindz, denies this version of events, stating he had signed contracts with media partners worth more than R3,1 million for which he is still liable but has not been paid by Unilever.

He also contends he is owed R4,5 million for management fees after his services were wrongfully terminated.

Their verbal agreements is likely to be one of the main points of contention, the other being the onus of liability for arranging the private jet.

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