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'Please Call Me' inventor accusing former funders of fraud

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The 'Please Call Me' saga continues and now inventor Kenneth Nkosana Makate is in a court battle with former funders.
The 'Please Call Me' saga continues and now inventor Kenneth Nkosana Makate is in a court battle with former funders.

'Please Call Me' inventor Kenneth Nkosana Makate has opened a fraud case against his former funders, Raining Men Trade. This according to a report in the Sunday Times, which says Raining Men Trade was placed in business rescue last month allegedly after not receiving payment from Makate.

The litigation-funding company claims it bankrolled Makate's case against Vodacom in the North Gauteng High Court and at the time instructed Makate to settle for no less than R650 million. But according to the Sunday Times, the group's director, Chris Schoeman, has now changed his mind and wants Makate to accept the R49 million that Vodacom has reportedly offered him for the idea that led to the development of the call-back service.

In April 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the former Vodacom employee, finally ending a legal case that had been dragging on since 2008 and affirming that Makate was entitled to be paid for inventing the 'Please Call Me' concept.

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 his idea. How much Vodacom is offering Makate has not been revealed due to "a confidentiality agreement" but Makate previously said he won't accept the offer, calling it "shocking and an insult".

Schoeman has told local media that the offer was R49 million. Raining Men Trade claims it is entitled to 50% of Makate's settlement.

In 2016, ITWeb reported that Makate was already in a complicated legal battle with Raining Men Trade. Makate claims the agreement that said Raining Men Trade would receive a share of his settlement was cancelled after the initial court case failed in the high court. Later, Raining Men Trade sought arbitration, claiming that the agreement in fact held.

According to the Sunday Times, Makate claims his signature was forged in a new agreement document that was drafted without his consent which says the contract cannot be cancelled.

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.

However, a group called the #PleaseCallMe Movement is demanding that Vodacom pay Makate R70 billion in compensation. The group led a protest to Vodacom's head office in Midrand on 31 January.

Vodacom has called the R70 billion demand "irrational". CFO Till Streichert told journalists during a conference call that Vodacom South Africa's net profit after tax for the last six years is about R70 billion. R70 billion would also be about one-third of Vodacom's market capitalisation on the JSE.

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