Vodacom withdraws Please Call Me action

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File photo: Nadine Hutton.

Johannesburg - Vodacom had withdrawn its application to compel Sterling Rand, which funded Nkosana Makate in his Please Call Me case, to pay its legal costs should Makate’s case fail, Vodacom attorney Leslie Cohen confirmed yesterday.

Business Report understands that Sterling Rand decided to consent to the application and intended to reopen the Please Call Me case. Sterling Rand wanted to recall former Vodacom chief executive Alan Knott-Craig for further evidence but Vodacom refused due to his ill health.

Cohen declined to comment on this and further reasons for the withdrawal of the Vodacom application but added that Vodacom did not want to “hold up the process”.

However, he said that Vodacom could rely on a clause in the funders’ agreement that holds Sterling Rand responsible for adverse costs.

Judge Phillip Coppin has reserved judgment on Makate’s case, which was heard from June to August. Closing argument took place over two days last month, where Judge Coppin expressed concern over the impact of the Vodacom application on his ability to finalise the judgment.

Tracey Roscher, a director of Sterling Rand, said: “If joined, Sterling Rand would have raised a number of aspects in its defence, including the legal subsmission that a funder is not, in principle, liable for the costs of the party being funded. As far as costs are concerned, the general principle is that costs follow the result and it is expected that Vodacom will tender the wasted costs.

“Sterling Rand has always been of the view that the application was an attempt to harass Makate. It was always within the discretion of the judge to refuse the joinder [application],” she added.

Roscher confirmed that Makate was indemnified against “an adverse costs order in terms of the agreement. The legal ramifications of this need only be considered if Vodacom is successful.”

Makate gave evidence in the South Gauteng High Court earlier that he invented the Please Call Me service while he was employed as a junior accountant in Vodacom’s finance division in 2000. He said a senior Vodacom official promised to discuss compensation in exchange for Makate’s disclosure of the concept and if the idea was found to be technically and commercially feasible.

The service, based on a system similar to Vodacom’s technical version, is in use by cellular network companies today. Makate claimed that Vodacom reneged on its promise to enter into discussions.

He wanted a profit sharing arrangement and has asked the court to order that the parties enter into negotiations to discuss compensation. According to Sterling Rand calculations, Makate could have earned more than R40 billion. - Business Report

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