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Please Call Me: Makate agrees to meet Vodacom over potential out of court settlement


Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate has agreed to meet with the telecommunications giant Vodacom.

Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate has agreed to meet with the telecommunications giant, Vodacom.

Vodacom says the impact of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) Please Call Me judgment, if it was upheld, would be vast and wide-ranging on both Vodacom South Africa and the Vodacom Group.

Vodacom has approached the Constitutional Court seeking it to overturn the SCA ruling, which ordered the telecommunications to pay Makate between 5% and 7.5% of the total revenue generated by the Please Call Me service that was derived from the prepaid or contract offerings from March 2001 to March 2021 (18 years), including interest.

According to reports, that figure could be in excess of R20 billion.

Last week, Makate’s lawyer, Wilna Lubbe, said that his client had noted Vodacom’s desire that the matter be amicably resolved.

“He has not been approached directly, but has accepted the invitation in a letter directed to Vodacom’s lawyers. He proposed a meeting with Vodacom’s representatives within the next couple of days for meaningful negotiations,” Lubbe said.

Lubbe made it clear that this is the first time (since the negotiations ended in a deadlock in December 2017) that Vodacom has given any indication that it wants this matter to be settled.

“Since the review of (Vodacom CEO Shameel) Joosub’s determination was instituted, Vodacom has opposed each and every step to finalise the matter”.

Vodacom said the SCA judgment was “fundamentally flawed” and said that key aspects of the ruling did not accord with the spirit of the law.

The company was approaching the apex court as the Supreme Court dismissed an application for leave to appeal and said that Joosub should make an offer to Makate.

Vodacom needs to assume that Makate had an 18-year contract with Vodacom and compensate him accordingly.

“It is apparent from the dissenting judgment of the SCA that the majority judgment overlooked or ignored many of the issues between the parties and their evidence and submissions relating to those issues,” Vodacom said.

The company said that this judgment would also affect South Africa’s attractiveness as an investment destination.

‘It would negatively impact our employees, shareholders and Vodacom’s contribution to public finances. It would also have an impact on our network investment, coverage and social programmes,” Vodacom said.

Vodacom said it has tired to negotiate with Makate and tried to come up with a “reasonable compensation” plan.

“These efforts, to date, unfortunately have failed. Vodacom remains open to constructive dialogue and good-faith negotiations and, without prejudice to its constitutional court appeal process, to agree a fair and reasonable amount as compensation for Mr Makate’s idea that led to the development of the ‘Please Call Me’ product. It is Vodacom’s desire that the matter be amicably resolved and brought to a timely conclusion.”

An offer of a R47 million settlement was summarily rejected by Makate.

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