Please Call Me battle lingers on despite court victory

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Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate.
Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate.

The raging battle for compensation between Nkosana Makate and Vodacom may not be over yet, despite the former scoring another court victory yesterday.

Makate, who is the inventor of the successful Please Call Me service, took the mobile giant to court demanding compensation for his role in creating the platform.

He is seeking R10 billion in compensation for his invention and has rejected Vodacom’s R47 million offer, heading to the court for the umpteenth time last August, pleading that the telco be ordered to release financial records, which will assist the parties in determining the value of the Please Call Me idea.

The High Court in Pretoria agreed, and yesterday, justice Jody Kollapen granted the order.

Reacting to the judgement, a Vodacom spokesperson did not rule out the possibility of an appeal, telling ITWeb: “We are reviewing Justice Kollapen’s judgement, where after a decision on appropriate next steps, including the possibility of an appeal, will be taken.

“Makate’s case before Justice Kollapen was not about the reasonableness of the quantum of the compensation payable to him, but rather the production of the record by the deadlock breaker, and further and better discovery of documentation.”

Vodacom says of the company’s position: “We have repeatedly stated our willingness to pay Mr Makate a substantial amount.

“Vodacom still holds the view that it entered into negotiations and negotiated with Mr Makate and his team in good faith, in accordance with the Order of the Constitutional Court.”

In response to the court ruling, Makate says: “They have provided me with all that I have requested and that will surely assist in the review of the CEO.”

Makate previously accused Vodacom of negotiating in bad faith on compensation, saying the discussions “have been anything but fair”.

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

In the court, Makate, who has been fighting the mobile operator for the past decade, said Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub offered him a settlement of R47 million during a 9 January meeting, and described the offer as “inherently unfair”.

Makate wants to review and set aside Joosub’s settlement offer and force Vodacom to disclose the revenue the company has generated from Please Call Me since it was launched in March 2001.

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.

As the stand-off between the two parties continues, frustrations have started spilling out on social media.

On Monday, Makate apologised to Joosub for retweeting a cartoon depicting the Vodacom CEO with his knee on Makate's neck. The tweet resembled the killing of George Floyd in the US, who was killed by a police officer who knelt on his neck.

Makate’s apology issued on Twitter, read: “I apologise for my re-tweet to the cartoon (depicting Mr Shameel Joosub, the CEO of Vodacom with his knee on my purported neck) and retract the statement made by me that Vodacom must get its knee off my neck.

“The retweet was born out of my frustration concerning my perception of the failure by Vodacom to settle my claim fairly. This is a matter which has caused me considerable pain as it has been dragging on for 20 years of my life.”

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