Emlink fears ex-employees will steal its clients

The Johannesburg High Court has interdicted former employees of the freight transport company Emlink from stealing its clients as per their signed restraint of trade agreement.

Emlink, which provides freight solutions to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and eSwatini, has dragged Rudolph Matthee and Elize Matthee to court, seeking an interdict against them for poaching their clients in their bid to do business with them after leaving the entity.

In Emlink’s application for an interdict, the Matthees were cited as the first and second respondents respectively

Emlink is the first applicant, while Satish Ghurahu, the managing director of the company, is the second applicant, while Brian Terrence, the entity’s business development manager, is the third applicant in the suit.

Judge Leicester Adams, granted Emlink the interdict, which prohibits the Matthees for a period of two years from directly or indirectly soliciting, or providing transport services to any of the company’s existing clients.

“What is more (important) is that the first respondent has relationships with customers of a nature that he could induce them to follow him to a new business… all of this serves to show an employee with the knowledge of the identity and requirements of the applicants’ customers and who had regular and repeated contact with the customers so as to build up a connection in the course of trade with them,” reads the judgment.

“For all of these reasons, I conclude that there can be no doubt that the customer contact exists and that respondents could exploit these connections if employed by a competitor. These customer connections form a part of the applicants’ goodwill.

“It is this interest that the applicants are entitled to have protected by enforcing the restraint of trade. On this basis alone, the restraint should be enforced.”

The court also ordered the Matthees to return all documents or copies of documents containing confidential information of the Emlink, which are in their possession, whether in hard copy, computerised or otherwise.

According to Emlink’s application, Rudolph was an employee of the entity from July 2022 until his resignation last month. His wife, Elize was also employed by the company.

She was also a shareholder and a director of Clyroscan – which held a 10% stake in Emlink.

Rudolph approached Emlink with a request to assist it and bring clients to it.

When the entity agreed, they both signed an agreement to work together last year.

In terms of the agreement, which has a restraint of trade clause, Rudolph would receive 10% of the shares in Emlink, to be held on his behalf by Clyroscan.

As part of the agreement, Rudolph would also receive remuneration in the form of commission on all business, which originated from such clients.

 Emlink said when the relationship broke down, it feared the Matthees would steal at least the 151 customers from it, based on the relationship they had with them.

“The first respondent (Rudolph) is ordered to immediately take all steps that may be necessary to provide full access and control of the ‘Value’ and ‘Part Sales’ WhatsApp groups to the third applicant (Brian Terrence), as the Administrator (‘Admin’) of such groups, or to such other person as may be nominated by the first applicant (Emlink), and that the first respondent be prohibited from participating in, or being involved with, any WhatsApp – or other communications with clients of the first applicant.”

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