Local arts and fashion writer vents on social media over payment tiff with publisher

A local arts and fashion writer has taken to social media to vent, claiming that an international publisher failed to pay him €1 000 (almost R17 000).

However, the publishers claim that the writer didn't call or contact them for two years, until recently.

Malibongwe Tyilo, 39, from Cape Town, says he contributed a piece for the book titled Africa Rising, which was published by international publishing house Gestaletenin 2016. 

He said he sent the publishers an invoice, seen by News24, on May 30, 2016.

When he did not receive any response, he decided to make contact via email in July to ask for an update. In the email, also seen by News24, he asked when his invoice would be processed. 

Someone named Vanessa responded: "Unfortunately, I don't know about the date of payment but I just sent out a reminder to our accountant to process the invoice. Hopefully, you'll get your money soon."

After weeks of trying to get to the bottom of the payment issue, he eventually received a response on August 31 and was informed that the publisher had filed for insolvency, with self-administration, on August 22, 2016. 

"The self-administration was confirmed by the district court the same day – please find a photocopy of the corresponding court order attached.

"Gestalten will go through a restructuring process, which should be completed in early 2017. The business operations will continue without interruption," the response, which has also been seen by News24, stated.

It also stated that payments of invoices for services delivered before August 22 were on hold and that the publisher would know more at the beginning of November 2017. 

"When that happened, I sent an email to confirm whether that meant I won't get paid and they said no. And obviously I was quite upset. So I just let it go and waited to be contacted," Tyilo said. 

Fast forward to 2018. Tyilo said he had eventually given up on receiving his money but something inside him told him to try again. 

"In my head I was like… it's been two years and they haven't contacted me and I was feeling upset, and then… I decided to revisit this thing and decided to pop them an email as well as a follow up email on October 2," he said. 

After sending the email, he decided to put up a post on Instagram.

"When that went on Instagram, they started by sending me a direct message on Instagram giving me a new email to [send enquiries] to," he said. 

Tyilo said he was then linked with Gestalten's head of operations who informed him that the publisher had to file for insolvency in 2016 and that a letter had been sent to all creditors, including Tyilo, explaining the situation. 

The head of operations also told Tyilo in an email that by insolvency law, the publisher was not and is still not allowed to pay for any services provided or invoices issued before August 22, 2016, saying "unfortunately this applies to your invoice as well".

The reply also stated that an official letter had been sent by the publisher's asset administrator which stated how Tyilo could have registered his claim during the process of insolvency. 

"Claims had to be registered until April 2017, then there was a period of grace of one year. Both these deadlines have now passed. Unfortunately, our hands are completely bound and we have no option to differently deal with your claim. If we would, we'd be guilty of an offence," the response by the head of operations, Iris Hempelmann, read. 

However, Tyilo claims that he never received such a letter.

"No one contacted me," he said.

"If you know you owe a person money, why wouldn't you try and get hold of them and even if you sent a physical letter across the world? Why wouldn't you then pop an email saying you've sent a mail?"

Tyilo said his decision to use social media to address this was partly because he told stories for a living and wanted to tell a story about what creatives sometimes experience.

"My only option was to at least put the story out there and let what happens happen," he said.

When News24 sent a list of questions to Gestalten enquiring about the dispute, the publisher replied that Tylio never called or contacted them over the course of two years until very recently.

It said it had written "at least one letter to Mr Tylio in 2016 on how to file his claim correctly and he did not respond over two years".

"But as Mr Tylio never responded to the letter sent in accordance with the court, the claim of Mr Tylio is statute-barred. The restructuring process was terminated by the court June 30th 2018," Gestalten CEO Robert Klanten told News24. 

Klanten said claims which were made until June 30, 2018 had been fully addressed and paid.

"Mr Tylio failed to register his claim in time and consequently he has no claim against us," he said. 

Klanten added that the publisher did not owe Tyilo any money as he would have received full payment "if he had responded to our letter and acted according to the legal process set out by the law".

"We will not be able to pay his invoice from May 2016... The court has diligently supervised the process and approved that no irregularities have happened in the process," Klanten said.

Klanten said that the publisher also approached its lawyers regarding a recording of a conversation which Tyilo had with the head of operations, which he posted on social media, because it deemed it illegal.

Tyilo, however, said he was ready for anything because he believed he had done nothing wrong.

"They must do what they feel is necessary for them. As for me, I do not feel I have done anything wrong," he said. 

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