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Please Call Me inventor accuses Vodacom of falsifying info

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 23 Oct 2020
Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub.
Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub.

Nkosana Makate, the inventor of Please Call Me, has accused Vodacom of falsifying information in a bid to deny him fair compensation for his creation.

Makate was reacting to Vodacom’s dismissal of new information submitted in court, alleging Vodacom had set aside R63.4 billion as potential reward due to him for the popular invention.

Makate’s invention enables a user without airtime to send a text to be called back by another subscriber.

According to Makate, Vodacom owes him a settlement of R10.2 billion, which excludes accrued interest and all the legal fees incurred since the Constitutional Court judgement. He wants Vodacom to pay him a settlement that takes into account his legal fees.

Makate said his legal team has calculated that Please Call Me has earned Vodacom R205 billion in call revenue from 2001 to 2020 (a forecast), which excludes, among other things, advertising revenue linked to the innovation.

In a statement on Friday, Vodacom alleged Makate is “deliberately misleading” the public that it had set aside a sum of R63 billion as potential compensation for his product.

Makate hit back, telling ITWeb that Vodacom’s “statement is riddled with falsifications and I will formerly respond to each falsity contained therein” within the next 48 hours.

The matter took a turn this week when a new affidavit by former Vodacom accountant Teboho Motaung was filed in the South Gauteng High Court, alleging the mobile operator had set aside R63.4 billion for Makate and had even processed invoices bearing his name while the matter was before the Constitutional Court.

He claimed Vodacom calculated the “Please Call Me” revenue streams in 2015, making a provision of R63.4 billion for the product.

Vodacom denies this claim, saying it did not make such a provision because the Constitutional Court did not set the quantum of the amount of money payable to Makate.

It adds that the court directed the parties to negotiate in good faith to agree a reasonable amount of compensation payable to Makate.

A Vodacom spokesperson says: “Recent statements made in the affidavits of Mr Makate and Mr Motaung are neither new nor do they introduce any new issues that have not previously been considered, including by the Commission for Intellectual Property and Companies and in Mr Makate’s interlocutory application before the North Gauteng High Court.

“In our view, the service of Mr Makate’s supplementary affidavit, in his effort to have the decision of Mr Shameel Joosub (a deadlock-breaking mechanism in the dispute, as determined by the Constitutional Court) is premature because the North Gauteng High Court still has to rule on Vodacom’s application for the variation of the court order that it sought to grant to Mr Makate to have access to certain documentation.

“Vodacom does not have some of the documents (ordered by the North Gauteng High Court to be produced) in its possession, and has disclosed the documents it has in its possession to Mr Makate’s attorneys.”

In July, justice Jody Kollapen, sitting in the South Gauteng High Court, ordered Vodacom to release financial records, which will assist the parties in determining the value of the Please Call Me idea.

Makate has been insisting that his negotiations with Vodacom “have been anything but fair”, demanding that the mobile operator produce all the details regarding revenue generated by the Please Call Me invention.

The battle for compensation between Makate and Vodacom has played out both inside and outside the courts for years, with no clear end in sight.

The parties were ordered by the Constitutional Court in 2016 to enter into good faith negotiations to determine reasonable compensation.