Vodacom, Lesufi at loggerheads over 'Please Call Me' saga

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Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

As the "Please Call Me" saga between Vodacom and its erstwhile employee, Kenneth Nkosana Makate, turns ugly, the mobile operator's lawyers have sent a stern letter to Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who criticised Vodacom over its failure to pay Makate.

Lesufi has been using social media to support Makate, who, for the past 18 years, has been trying to get compensation from Vodacom for creating the lucrative call-back service.

The Please Call Me saga made headlines again earlier this month when Vodacom said its CEO had determined the amount of reasonable compensation payable to Makate and the funds would be transferred as soon as it had his banking account details.

However, Makate said he had not agreed to anything with Vodacom.

Lesufi has since given Vodacom a 31 January deadline to pay Makate. "We are an economy and we can shut it down. We are inundated with messages of support. Let's avoid this please, please," he said earlier this month on Twitter.

The MEC posted some parts of the letter that Vodacom's lawyers sent to him yesterday.

The letter read: "We furthermore call upon Mr Lesufi, who has continually maintained in the media that he is [taking] action in his personal capacity, to provide a written undertaking that:

  1. He will 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 willful breach of the Constitutional Court or that it is acting in an unfair and morally repugnant manner towards Mr Makate.
  2. He will 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.
  3. Making any threats relating to the invasion and occupation of any of our client's various stores around the country in future.

The letter also gives Lesufi "until 12h00 on 30 January to provide the aforementioned written undertaking, failing which our client will seek relief on an urgent basis in an appropriate forum on terms it deems appropriate without further notice to yourselves".

It adds that: "The Twitter posts last month of themselves may have seemed innocuous; however, they became ominous when read with the threat received on 28 January 2019. It goes without saying that our client does not consent to any attempt by the Movement, aided and abetted by any third party to the occupation of its premises on 31 January 2019 or any other date."

A group calling itself the #PleaseCallMe Movement is demanding that Makete get paid his dues for his invention.

Responding to the letter, Lesufi has remained defiant, tweeting: "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!"

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