Johannesburg - Cellphone giant Vodacom said on Thursday that it would not be moving from the payment offer it had made to the inventor of "Please Call Me", Nkosana Makate, despite public pressure and protests against the company.
This as hundreds of supporters from the Please Call Me Movement demonstrated outside Vodacom's headquarters in Midrand on Thursday and at major Vodacom shops in Sandton, demanding that the company pay Makate his due. The Please Call me Movement has the backing of some politicians from different parties.
Vodacom has been under immense public pressure of late as the Please Call Me matter has resurfaced again. The company closed its shops to trading in the wealthy Sandton district on Thursday after it had sent organisers of the protest a cease and desist letter to stop what it described as incitement to invade its stores.
The Constitutional Court ruled in 2016 that Vodacom should pay Makate "reasonable compensation" for the "Please Call Me" service he developed in 2000. Makate has described as "shocking and an insult" the amount that Vodacom chief executive Shameel Joosub earlier this month said he had determined as reasonable compensation.
In one of his affidavits submitted to court in 2015, Makate's legal team argued that the Please Call Me service had generated R70 billion in revenue for Vodacom. Makate's lawyers said he was entitled to a 15 percent share of the revenue as compensation, which was estimated to be up to R10.5 billion.
Speaking on eNCA on Thursday afternoon, Vodacom's head of legal and regulatory affairs, Nkateko Nyoka said the decision of the chief executive was "final and binding", and that the company was not going to pay anything close to R70 billion.
"We certainly not going to go anywhere near R70 billion. Mr Makate's claim is against Vodacom South Africa and the service revenue of Vodacom South Africa is about R54 billion. If we were to pay R70 billion, it means Vodacom South Africa must close shop tomorrow," Nyoka said.
"We are willing and ready to pay Mr Makate the amount of compensation that has been determined by the Vodacom group CEO as reasonable and fair compensation. Mr Makate is taking the group CEO's decision on judicial review, if that is the case we will participate in the process and make our caps before the judiciary.
"And if for some reason the courts determine that they need to step back, then we will manage the situation as it unfolds. We believe, from the perspective of the law, that the CEO in his role as the deadlock breaker, has made a final decision and it's legally binding on both parties. The amount that has been determined as fair and reasonable compensation, we are ready and willing to pay to Mr Makate like yesterday."
On Thursday, Makate told the African News Agency via telephone that he "won't confirm nor deny any amount that is mentioned [in the media] because this matter is subject of a confidential negotiation process".
Makate said he was in talks with his lawyers as to what steps to take next. "The logical step is to take the offer on review. We are yet to decide whether we take it back to the high court or the Constitutional Court again," he said.
Makate said he was grateful for the public support he has received in his long-drawn-out multi-million rand civil claim against the mobile phone giant.
Speaking to talk radio station 702 on Thursday, litigation funder Chris Schoeman said Vodacom had offered Makate R49 million. Schoeman said he believed the amount was generous and Makate should accept it.
Schoeman met Makate in 2011 and helped fund his legal battle against Vodacom – which ultimately resulted in the Constitutional Court ruling.
African News Agency (ANA)