Legal View

Vodacom amps up security at Vodaworld as protestors arrive

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Protestors have started arriving at the Vodacom headquarters in Midrand.
Protestors have started arriving at the Vodacom headquarters in Midrand.

Protestors have this morning started arriving at the Vodacom World (Vodaworld) headquarters in Midrand, says Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy.

UPDATE:

ANC member Benson Motsumi has since told members to disperse, with plans to come back to #ShutdownVodacom at a future date. He says they were unable to hand over a memorandum because Vodacom shut the gates. Only a few die-hard protestors remain.

Vodacom had already decided to shut the campus in preparation for anticipated protests by a group calling themselves the #PleaseCallMe Movement, which is backing 'Please Call Me' inventor Kenneth Nkosana Makate.

"The retail stores inside the campus have been closed for the day. Naturally the safety and security of staff and customers remains of utmost importance to Vodacom and we do have measures in place to deal with various scenarios. We remain ready and willing to pay Mr Makate a substantial amount, having fully complied with the Constitutional Court order on the matter," Kennedy said.

The telco said in an e-mailed statement to ITWeb before protestors arrived that it was aware of a planned protest.

"We respect the right of every South African to freedom of expression and to hold legal and peaceful protests."

Negotiations between Makate and Vodacom have been going on since 2016, after the Constitutional Court on 26 April 2016 ruled in favour of the former Vodacom employee, finally ending a legal case that had been dragging on since 2008.

The Constitutional Court ruling said: "Vodacom is ordered to commence negotiations in good faith with Mr Kenneth Nkosana Makate for determining a reasonable compensation payable to him in terms of the agreement."

However, "in the event of the parties failing to agree on the reasonable compensation, the matter must be submitted to Vodacom's chief executive officer for determination of the amount within a reasonable time".

After over two-and-a half years, no settlement seems to have been reached and Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub has determined the amount Makate will be paid for the idea that led to the development of the call-back service.

"The group CEO has met with the legal representatives of Mr Makate and Vodacom to convey his decision and determination. Vodacom can confirm that Mr Makate's funds will be transferred as soon as we have the banking account details," Vodacom said earlier this month.

Makate reportedly wants Vodacom to pay him R70 billion for his idea. Vodacom will not reveal the "reasonable compensation" it has offered him but Makate won't accept the offer, calling it "shocking and an insult".

To put it in context, Vodacom's market capitalisation on the JSE today is worth R219.8 billion, so R70 billion would be almost a third of that. The group's revenue for the year ended 31 March 2018 was R86.4 billion and for the year it made a net profit of R15.6 billion.

Makate had originally asked Vodacom for 15% of all 'Please Call Me' revenue, should the product be successful. In 2016, his legal counsel argued that would amount to around R10.5 billion.

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi remains defiant.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi remains defiant.

Vodacom's chief officer for legal and regulatory affairs, Nkateko Nyoka, says in an opinion piece published on the Vodacom Web site that the reasonable compensation is "a significant amount of money and a windfall for Mr Makate. Vodacom is ready and willing to pay Mr Makate, soonest. The ball is now in Mr Makate's court."

Nyoka also claimed 'Please Call Me' was an idea, but not an original one.

"It had already been invented and subsequently patented by MTN. In fact, MTN launched its version called 'Call Me' the month before Vodacom did."

Threat of shutdown

Makate's supporters are, however, not happy with Vodacom and have been planning to shut down the Vodacom head office in Midrand today unless Makate is paid by 10am.

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has also embroiled himself in the 'Please Call Me' saga, taking to Twitter to criticise Vodacom and has joined the Movement in its plans for the Vodacom shutdown.

"We need to stand by Nkosana 'Please Call Me' Makate against this bully called @Vodacom, pay him by month end or face the wrath of the nation. How dare do [sic] you even disrespect court decisions #VodaPayHim," Lesufi tweeted on 12 January.

Vodacom responded to that tweet, saying: "A decision on reasonable compensation payable to Mr Makate, based on the Con Court Order, was recently made by Vodacom Group CEO. This decision has been communicated to Mr Makate and his attorneys. Claims that Vodacom is disrespecting [sic] decision of courts is false & ill-informed."

The Movement's Modise Setoaba told EWN that he had received a lawyer's letter from Vodacom to call off the shutdown or face legal action. Vodacom reportedly gave the group until midday on Wednesday to call off its demonstration.

Lesufi also received a legal letter from the network provider calling on him to "desist from making false and defamatory comments of and concerning our client in relation to its litigation with Mr Makate in general and in particular that our client is in wilful breach of the Constitutional Court or that it is acting in an unfair and morally repugnant manner towards Mr Makate".

It also told him to "desist from calling for/and or inciting the invasion and occupation of the Vodaworld store or any other of our client's premises, including but not limited to its various stores around the country on 31 January 2019 or any other further date".

Lesufi, however, remained defiant, tweeting yesterday: "Bring it on @Vodacom! I am NOT easily intimidated. You can't bully me or silence my support to the weak and vulnerable. This is a democratic country and I have the right to express my views without fear. The apartheid regime detained me without trial. I am not scared!"

This morning Lesufi tweeted: "We remain hopeful the deadline will be respected and @Vodacom will provide a way forward".

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