The ANC is investigating the possibility of opening an extortion case against its former web service provider‚ Unwembi, says a TimesLIVE report. This follows an almost three-week technological blackout after Unwembi switched off the party’s previous web domain – www.anc.org.za – over allegations of non-payment.

‘It remains our assertion that the domain www.anc.org.za belongs to the ANC‚’ spokesperson Pule Mabe said.

According to Mabe‚ Unwembi furnished the ANC with a cancellation and payment settlement plan. This plan mutually agreed to end web services they provided by 30 November 2018‚ with the settlement figure agreed upon amounting to almost R3.7m calculated at six months of service.

But the service provider has maintained that it is owed R32.5m by the ANC for developing and hosting the party's website.

We have since advised our legal team to look into the matter after what we viewed as a deliberate attempt to cast doubt on our reputation and public standing was paraded out in the public‚ with a big placeholder telling everyone that the website is closed due non-payment. Our legal team have written to SA Domain demanding the return of our domain‚ which we deem to be a property of the ANC and that no private company should attempt to lay claim on the inheritance‚’ Mabe added.

Full TimesLIVE report

A different take is offered in a BusinessLIVE report, which says the ANC, after denying it had a contract with Unwembi, has said it will make arrangements to pay the service provider. In a letter to Unwembi’s attorney Gert van der Merwe, Hogan Lovells, for the ANC said the message left on the website was causing the party ‘unnecessary administrative hurdles’ but also that the ‘damaging and defamatory message’ was causing the ANC ‘unimaginable reputation harm’.

Hogan Lovells said Unwembi’s actions made any engagement process to find an amicable resolution untenable.

Our client would in any event still be willing to engage with your client over what it believes it owes your client, of course, with a view to find each other and an amicable resolution to this matter,’ Hogan Lovells’ partner SJ Thema said in the letter.

He said the ANC would ‘proceed to make arrangements to pay’ Unwembi, but only the amounts which the party was liable for under the agreement with the company. The ANC has asked for copies of all invoices. It also wants the domain name and website restored and for the message currently on the website to be removed.

Full BusinessLIVE report