Nkosana Makate. Picture: Zelda Venter
Nkosana Makate. Picture: Zelda Venter

Vodacom must release documents to 'Please Call Me' inventor

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Jul 1, 2020

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Pretoria - Vodacom was yesterday ordered by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to hand over a host of documents to the inventor of “Please Call Me” service Nkosana Makate.

He had said he needed the documents to determine the true value of his invention.

Makate turned to court earlier in a bid to be provided with documents on which Vodacom and its chief executive, Shameel Joosub, based their decision to only grant him R47million for his invention.

Judge Jody Kollapen ordered that Vodacom had to hand copies of several contractual documents to him within 21 days.

He must, among others, receive copies of all underlying data and financial information for the period 2001 to 2018, which Vodacom used when it determined what was owed to him.

The documents include financial statements and copies of contracts the cellphone giant has concluded with other service providers to see what they have earned from Makate’s invention.

Portions of a forensic KPMG report, dated November3, 2008, must also be handed to him, but this is subjected to a confidentiality report.

Makate is challenging the decision made by the chief executive, as he feels that R47m is not reasonable compensation. He launched this interlocutory application to obtain the documents, which he said he needed for his pending judicial review application.

Makate is of the opinion that his invention has made multi-millions for Vodacom and that he is thus entitled to more than he has received.

He has been embroiled in a legal dispute with Vodacom for more than a decade.

He was previously employed by Vodacom and is the creator of “Please Call Me”. The idea was presented to Vodacom in 2000, and the latter showed a keen interest in developing it.

Judge Kollapen said so began the commercial exploitation of the concept. Makate’s stance is that the concept is the source of considerable revenue for Vodacom.

As the creator of the idea, he sought compensation for its use in line with what he said was always his intention - to exploit it for commercial purposes.

He was, however, never given recognition. Vodacom’s chief executive at the time, Alan Knott-Craig, claimed to be the inventor.

After eight years of litigation, the Constitutional Court in April 2016 declared Makate as the inventor and ordered that Vodacom had to negotiate in good faith with him to determine reasonable compensation.

The court further ordered that if the parties failed to agree on reasonable compensation, Vodacom’s chief executive had to determine the amount.

Negotiations between Makate and Vodacom failed, and the chief executive stepped in and determined that R47m was a reasonable amount.

Vodacom and its chief executive meanwhile refused to give Makate the documents he requested to take the matter further.

Vodacom’s stance was that it did not give him the data he wanted as revenue figures were drawn from billions of data call records arising from every single call made, and it was impossible to provide the billions of records as they no longer exist.

The judge said this may be so, but Vodacom had to provide its chief executive with some sort of voice revenue income for him to have concluded that R47m was a reasonable amount to pay Makate.

Pretoria News

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