Notes: Social media firestorms and the protection of smaller enterprises: Ubuntu Baba and Woolworths

Authors: Peter Kituri, Andrew Hutchison & James Lappeman

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Attorney of the High Court of South Africa; Associate Professor, Department of Commercial Law, University of Cape Town; Senior Lecturer, School of Management Studies, University of Cape Town
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 138 Issue 4, p. 715-731


In this note we explore the use of social media as a tool to help small enterprises exert pressure on large corporations. Specifically, we use the case study of a small South African business (Ubuntu Baba) that exerted a powerful non-legal sanction on major retailer Woolworths through social media. This entrepreneur-initiated social media firestorm led to victory in the court of public opinion and a quick settlement. This low-cost option was possibly chosen in the face of the costs and uncertainties of more conventional legal recourse. Small businesses are an important component of the South African government’s strategy for economic development and employment creation, yet the existing laws protecting weaker parties often leave small businesses exposed to corporate power-play. This form of corporate power imbalance is a core theme underlying our case study.