Soon after Tbo Touch announced that MTN had joined his mammoth #DataMustFall campaign, fans started labelling the radio personality a 'sell-out' of the movement.He said data has fallen. Social media said he's a sell-out. He happened to get his online platform onto the network that he said helped data fall... for free. He has refused to answer any of our questions.
What is going on with Tbo Touch, data must fall and that MTN deal? We investigate...
How it all started...In September, Touch waged war against the exorbitant data costs in SA. At the forefront of the social media campaign, which reached Parliament in the days that followed its launch, Touch gave mobile networks 30 days to make a change.
Touch and his business partner Gareth Cliff took their fight to Parliament later in September where they pleaded with MPs to heed their call.
Time went past without any updates from mobile networks, until recently when Touch announced that MTN had joined the "low data movement". The mobile network supposedly launched new data packages of 1gig for R65, 2gig for R99 and unlimited calls.
MTN 'joins' #DataMustFall
#DataFalling @MTNza has joined the low data movement.1 data Bundle is now R65 2Gig R99 Unlimited calls,SMS,3G data for R859 AlutaContinua— Tbo Touch (@iamtbotouch) November 18, 2016
Hot on the heels of this announcement, Touch revealed that his online music station Touch Central would be made free to MTN subscribers.
Breaking News:#TouchCentral is now FREE! Like YES!!!!! FREEE on @MTNza now all radio station Bring your A Game we ready!— Tbo Touch (@iamtbotouch) November 18, 2016
Social media users feel 'played' by TouchWhile the news was met with great excitement from many South Africans, the celebrations were cut short when it emerged that MTN had always had the 'low data' package for its prepaid customers, called the Night Express.
Moreover, the biggest criticism of this package was that it lasts for only a week and is only valid between 12am and 6am.
Subsequently, Touch was accused of having benefited personally from this deal with MTN, and was labelled a "sell-out" of the data movement.
So Tbo Touch is happy that data has "fallen" or that his show is free?What a time to be alive #DataMustFall pic.twitter.com/oSO6USDb7A— Afrika First (@ramoroaswi) November 18, 2016
Data didn't fall,Tbo- Touch just made a personal deal. #Datafalling— Mthiyane (@SifisoMdladla) November 18, 2016
Tbo touch is like mbongeni ngema in The SARAFINA movie his selling us out.....bo Thabo mara #DataFalling— Vusi Troy-line (@Vusi_Aphane) November 18, 2016
This was such an important fight that Tbo Touch was leading, but he let corporate greed get in the way of his vision:'(— Brigadier General (@ChiefExo) November 18, 2016
#DataFalling: I guess now we all know that #DataMustFall wasn't about students or SA, it was for Tbo Touch to get listeners on his station. pic.twitter.com/s0AXBbnDcG— Karabo Mokgoko (@Karabo_Mokgoko) November 19, 2016
SA: We see you've got a deal with MTN but let's continue with #DataMustFall ✊ Tbo Touch: Touch Central is free on MTN SA: BUT. Tbo Touch: pic.twitter.com/TOdl4wZTQE— Karabo Mokgoko (@Karabo_Mokgoko) November 18, 2016
MTN speaks outSpeaking to TshisaLIVE, MTN wouldn't divulge whether Touch or Touch Central would be getting a cut of this deal or if they were in any way benefiting financially from it.
The mobile network instead explained that its partnership with Touch Central was inspired by its mission to help grow online platforms.
"MTN has also zero rated Touch Central to enable its customers to stream the station without having to worry about the cost of data. MTN believes that this move will contribute considerably to grow these platforms. We will continue to explore innovative ways of reducing the costs to communicate while ensuring the sustainability of the industry," said Larry Annetts, Chief Consumer Officer at MTN SA.
Annetts also clarified that the Night Express bundles have always been available for MTN's prepaid customers.
"1GB for R65 as a weekly bundle. The night express bundles: buy 1GB for R59, 2GB R109 and 5Gb for R139 valid for 30 days. These bundles have always been available."
So basically, Touch made a big deal about something that has always existed for MTN prepaid customers? Which begs the question: how is the network helping the #DataMustFall cause?
When asked at what point did MTN join the #DataMustFall movement, Annetts revealed that the mobile network introduced a Sky Lite Sim in the past month.
"In the last month MTN introduced the Sky Lite Sim only deal at R899 with unlimited calls, SMSs, and 3GB every month. We also have another promotion which offers new and upgrading customers 50GB of data plus 10 000 MTN to MTN minutes for every month for 24 months."
An email with questions was sent to Touch on Monday, and he has not yet responded.