Nelson Mandela’s brilliant way to resolve a dispute between Vodacom and MTN

Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a unique conflict resolution approach, similar to what former President Nelson Mandela used to resolve a dispute between Vodacom and MTN.

Speaking to Jimmy Kimmel, Schwarzenegger said his task as former California Governor was to resolve disputes by inspiring the parties to speed up the process.

He was referring to the recent Hollywood writer and actor strike, which significantly impacted the entertainment industry.

“I wish things that you can’t do, you could do. When I fought with my brother, my father would lock us in a room until we solved the problem,” he said.

Schwarzenegger said it would be a great method to resolve disputes between striking workers and employers.

“Lock the studio executives and union leaders in a room and tell them they can’t get out until the strike is settled. There will be no food or bathrooms.”

“The studio executives can’t go to their favourite restaurants, and the union leaders can go to their families.”

He said it would create an urgency among both parties, and the strike would be settled very quickly.

Although Schwarzenegger made these comments tongue-in-cheek, it was not as silly as many people may think.

Former President Mandela used a very similar method to resolve a dispute between Vodacom and MTN.

In his book, Second Is Nothing, former Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig recalled the day he received an invite from then-President Mandela to join him for tea at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

This call came amidst a nasty dispute between Vodacom and MTN, where MTN used dirty tricks to beat Vodacom in a network quality contest.

Apart from the fight playing out publicly in the media, Knott-Craig decided to take MTN to court for defamation.

Before the court battle proceeded, Knott-Craig received an invitation from Mandela.

After he arrived, Mandela graciously greeted him as if they had been friends for years. Another person was at the meeting – MTN CEO Bob Chaphe.

Mandela told Knott-Craig and Chaphe, “I believe there is a court case pending between MTN and Vodacom.”

“I am sure that you both have good reasons for the court case, but I don’t want to know what they are,” he said.

“However, it doesn’t look good for the country to have our top mobile network operators at loggerheads.”

“There has to be another way. Why don’t you go into my private study and see if you can come up with a solution to all this? Come back and let me know what you decide.”

The two CEOs did not know how to resolve the matter without their lawyers but did not want to disappoint Mandela.

Although they were fierce enemies and were not on speaking terms before the meeting, they agreed to find an amicable solution.

Knott-Craig decided to withdraw the court case, and Chaphe agreed to issue an apology to Vodacom for manipulating the network quality tests.

The dispute and legal battle between Vodacom and MTN was settled in less than half an hour. It was time for the two CEOs to bring the news to the president.

Mandela smiled broadly when he saw them, and before they could tell him they had resolved the dispute, he said – “I knew you wouldn’t disappoint me. Thank you for sorting out your disagreement”.