With 70% of Telkom’s top management being black, the company’s leadership particularly understands the needs of the impoverished, as most have risen up the corporate ladder from extremely modest beginnings. This is hardly the kind of leadership that will tolerate the marketing of products and services that “rip off the poor” (M&G Business, July 28).
Now, according to the Telkom's 2005 annual report as of 31 March 2004 the company had 4,72m fixed-line customers (including businesses and payphones - fewer than Switzerland, a hilly convenience stop on the motorway from Copenhagen to Rome) for a country of 47m people. How many poor customers can they have? Compare the 4,72m lines in 2004 to 4,26m in 1996 (source: ITU) and 3,66m in 1993 (source: government green paper). That is just over 1m new lines in 11 years and I would be glad to see some brave soul compare that to the growth in the period 1982-1993! Now, I respectively submit that - having come from modest beginnings and NOT having risen up the corporate ladder - I might actually be in a better position, in spite of my sometimes somewhat pale complexion, to understand the position of the impoverished than Ms Letlape and her fellow executives. But, she is absolutely right in saying that Telkom does not rip off of the poor - it practically avoids dealing with them at all.