Makate says Vodacom trying to out-litigate him through costs

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Nkosana Makate, inventor of the Please Call Me service, views the appeal by Vodacom as the latest move in a series of tactics the company employs not to pay him fairly.

He says he is not backing down from the battle against Vodacom, accusing it of trying to “out-litigate him” through costs.

Makate is accusing the telco of being “untruthful” to the court after Vodacom filed an appeal on Monday to overturn his recent court win, arguing it doesn’t have the data requested by the court to determine fair value of the invention.

The telco’s ex-employee is seeking R10 billion in compensation for his invention and has rejected Vodacom’s R47 million offer, heading to court for 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, earlier this month, Justice Jody Kollapen granted his wish.

However, three weeks after the judgement, Vodacom has appealed the court’s decision, saying: “The learned judge should have found that the applicant [Vodacom] was no longer possessed of the raw data underlying the voice revenue figures appearing in an aggregated manner in their annual financial statements for the years 2001 to 2018 and could therefore not produce same.”

Makate hit back today, telling ITWeb: “That could not be further from truth; Vodacom is a blue-chip and hi-tech company with a very advanced archiving system. Even during my days, we had sophisticated reporting and archiving systems to store any information.

“The delays are mere tactics applied by Vodacom with a view to out-litigate me through costs.”

He says his legal team will be “assessing the matter in a few days and we will most likely oppose the appeal”.

In response, a Vodacom spokesperson says the telco has applied for leave to appeal Justice Kollapen’s judgement “relating to the supplementary record and further and better discovery of documentation in the Please Call Me matter.

“Mr Makate’s case before Justice Kollapen is not about the reasonableness of the quantum of the compensation payable to him.”

The spokesperson says Vodacom has been consistent on the matter “in that 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.”

Makate previously accused Vodacom of negotiating in bad faith on the 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.

Makate argued in court that: “Section 34 and 39(2) of the Constitution states that such tribunals must be subject to review because they should be in line with the Bill of Rights. It means that decisions coming from forums like mine before the CEO should be guided by Common Law.

“There are certain things that were not done. We want them to produce all the details regarding revenue generated by the Please Call Me invention.”

In 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.

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