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Please Call Me inventor speaks out: ‘I’ve made huge sacrifices’

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 07 Feb 2024
Vodacom has been ordered to determine a new compensation for ‘Please Call Me’ creator Nkosana Makate.
Vodacom has been ordered to determine a new compensation for ‘Please Call Me’ creator Nkosana Makate.

While he has made a lot of sacrifices during his protracted legal battle against Vodacom, ‘Please Call Me’ creator Nkosana Makate says he is “thrilled” with the latest court judgement.

This, after Vodacom suffered another loss in the legal battle, when the Supreme Court of Appeal this week ordered the operator to determine a new compensation for the 'Please Call Me' inventor– within 30 days of the order.

Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub is also obliged to make a fresh determination “of the annual effective rate” which should be a blend between contract and prepaid effective rate.

In a telephone interview with ITWeb, Makate explains: “I am thrilled with the judgement, it takes us a bit further and much closer to finality. It’s been a long time, the sacrifice has been huge, and a 15-year battle with a massive company like Vodacom is no child’s play.”

According to court documents, Vodacom must pay Makate between 5% and 7.5% of the total voice revenue generated by the ‘Please Call Me’ service, derived from prepaid or contract offerings from March 2001 to March 2021 (18 years), including interest.

The Supreme Court of Appeal also dismissed Vodacom's application for leave to appeal a previous ruling, setting aside the R47 million offer previously made by Joosub.

When asked how much compensation he feels he deserves from Vodacom, Makate declined to share specific figures, noting the court order is quite clear on how the calculations should be done.

“The amount still has to be calculated and we have the supremacy of the law in South Africa…The calculations are quite clear and the [Vodacom] CEO can do them or we can also do them on his behalf. Let’s allow the court order to be implemented. The ball is now in Vodacom’s court and let’s allow them to deal with that,” he says.

Makate previously claimed 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 had always insisted Vodacom should pay him a settlement that takes into account his legal fees.

Influencing new laws

Makate, a former Vodacom employee, reportedly came up with the idea for the ‘Please Call Me' product in 2000. At the time he was in a long-distance relationship with his now wife, and came up with the invention as a resolution to their communication difficulties.

The litigation began in 2008, when Makate took the matter to the High Court, after writing letters to Vodacom in 2007, in vain.

In a statement sent to ITWeb, Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy says: “Vodacom is surprised and disappointed with the judgement and will bring an application for leave to appeal before the Constitutional Court of South Africa. In line with a 2016 Constitutional Court order, Vodacom’s CEO determined reasonable compensation of R47 million to Makate for the Please Call Me idea.”

'Please Call Me' inventor, Nkosana Makate.
'Please Call Me' inventor, Nkosana Makate.

Makate had previously rejected the R47 million offer and brought an application to the Gauteng Division of the High Court of South Africa to have the Vodacom Group CEO’s determination judicially reviewed and set aside.

In February 2022, the High Court set aside the group CEO’s determination and ordered him to reconsider the settlement offered to Makate. Vodacom then launched an application for leave to appeal against this order.

Makate points out, while he has put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this litigation, the biggest victory remains the value that has come out of the legal matter, which has set a precedent for similar cases in future.

“A person can be awarded billions of rands, but what will remain is the judgement that will be used by this country for many years to come,” asserts Makate.

Makate believes the latest Supreme Court of Appeal judgement emphasises that the principle of fairness must always take priority.