Pupil overwhelmed by public support after Vodacom data glitch

Johannesburg - “It is overwhelming to see that South Africans still believe in the spirit of uBuntu.”

These were the words of Bongani Mthombeni, whose Facebook post about missing an opportunity to submit a bursary application went viral after Vodacom’s massive data glitch on Monday night.

After a family member sent him a data bundle, Mthombeni, 17, attempted to submit his application, which required an online upload, via email.  

Following his post, he was approached by scores of social media users offering him support and assistance after he was unable to submit his application when the network depleted his data during a maintenance exercise. 

Mthombeni said Vodacom had attempted to reach out to him but was unsuccessful because it was during school hours. 

“I am very grateful for the support I received from the public. I didn’t even expect Vodacom to respond, because this is something that does not happen when users have an issue,” Mthombeni told Fin24. 

A matric pupil at Unitas Secondary School in the Free State, Mthombeni is hoping to study chartered accountancy next year, with medicine and law as his back-up options. 

“With an unemployed mother and after the support I have received from the people of South Africa and my community, when I am employed I will try my best to go back to help rural communities, especially unemployed people, because these are the people that stood by me during this time,” he said.   

Mthombeni's post was even picked up in a tweet by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who requested that Vodacom assist.

He is currently waiting to hear from the company he emailed his application to whether it was successful. 

Vodacom told Fin24 the technical glitch that drained data bundles from numerous customers on Monday was sparked by a configuration change to the network’s billing system. 

“The issue was caused by a configuration change on our prepaid and top-up billing system that was problematic. We were able to isolate the cause and roll back this process during the course of last night (Monday),” Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy told Fin24 on Tuesday.

Kennedy said Vodacom has already reimbursed customers affected by the billing issue. 

All out-of-bundle charges incurred during the incident are being refunded and depleted bundles are being reinstated, according to Vodacom.

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