Botswana e-commerce startup Ponatshego still owes customers P350,000 (~$25K) for undelivered goods, one year after the startup shut down because of financial constraints.

“It has been excuse after excuse from the cofounders, and it’s painful because that was a lot of money,” said one customer who paid P7,000 (~$505) for a gaming console in January 2023.

Motshidisi Ngaiti, Ponatshego’s co-founder, told one customer he was trying to sell his car to settle the customer’s refunds following the liquidation of the business, according to messages seen by TechCabal.

Another customer who paid P13,000 (~$940) for a laptop that was never delivered only received a refund of P4,000 (~$290) in July 2022. “They have not been taking my calls ever since then, and it’s like they have completely disappeared,” the person said.

“I paid 50% of the company’s total debt, which was about P350,000  in total, comprising customer refunds and other debts,” Ngaiti told TechCabal, adding that the founders agreed to settle Ponatshego’s outstanding debts relative to their shareholding.

Ngaiti also claimed he settled part of his business partner, William Whittle’s share of the debt. But Whittle refuted those claims. 

“I admit that some customers are yet to get refunds, and a process is currently underway to make sure that they get paid,” Whittle said. He declined to provide a timeline for the repayments. 

Founded in 2020, Ponatshego’s business model comprised shipping high-end goods to consumers who ordered through its online platform. 

The platform also had a marketplace for local brands to list their products. In May 2021, the startup raised a P250,000 (~$18,000) seed capital round from the Angel Network of Botswana (ANB). The company aimed to expand its business model to SADC countries, but its collapse and the debt left in its wake have left a bad taste in the mouths of customers.

“I tried reporting the case to the relevant regulators, but I have given up now, “ one customer told TechCabal. “They have tainted local e-commerce platforms for me.”

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