Nkosana Kenneth Makate
Nkosana Kenneth Makate

Vodacom faces shutdown threat over ‘Please Call Me’ settlement

By Shaun Smillie Time of article published Jan 26, 2019

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Johannesburg - In five days time Vodacom will have to agree to pay the inventor of the Please Call Me service a settlement or possibly suffer a global backlash.

Protesters plan to march on Vodacom offices on January 31, demanding that Nkosana Makate is paid proper compensation.

The threat comes weeks after Makate called an offer by Vodacom an insult.

Gauteng MEC Panyaza Lesufi gave the mobile service provider the deadline of January 31.

“We need to stand by Nkosana ‘Please Call Me’ Makate against this bully called @Vodacom, pay him by month end or face the wrath of the nation. How dare do you even disrespect court decisions.”

Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams tweeted for Vodacom to shut up and “do the right thing”.

On Friday, Lesufi said: “Vodacom must not ignore us. If they haven’t resolved it by January 31, we are going to use all means possible. We are going to lobby institutions involved with Vodacom. We need to lobby the state and we want to put pressure on Vodacom internationally.”

Lesufi said he had been in contact with South African embassies to get contacts that could assist in pressurising Vodacom overseas.

“I can’t stomach to see a young talented man going through this thing alone and we need to provide solidarity,” Lesufi said, adding that he was acting in his personal capacity.

Makate worked for Vodacom in the early 2000s and took the idea of the Please Call Me service to the company’s product development team. For 18 years he has been involved in legal proceedings and negotiations in a bid to get compensation for his idea.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that Vodacom had to begin negotiations with Makate for a reasonable payout. Earlier this year, Vodacom offered Makate what they said was “reasonable compensation”.

Makate rejected the offer, calling it an insult, and said he was consulting a legal team on how to take the matter forward.

Vodacom considers the matter finalised.

“Vodacom has never said that it had reached an agreement with Mr Makate. The Constitutional Court order does not require Mr Makate to agree to the amount set by the group CEO as reasonable compensation in his role as a deadlock-breaking mechanism,” Vodacom spokesperson Bryon Kennedy said.

“On January 9, 2019, the Vodacom group CEO conveyed his decision and determination to both the legal representatives of Mr Makate and Vodacom. Having followed the order of the Constitutional Court to the letter, Vodacom’s view is that the Vodacom group CEO’s determination, made in his judicially sanctioned role as a deadlock-breaking mechanism is final. Accordingly, we consider the matter to be closed.”

The founder of the #Please Call me Movement Modise Sekgothe said the marches on January 31 would be supported by the ANC, the Black First Land First party and the EFF.

“We have a lot of people supporting the movement, they are cancelling their contracts with Vodacom,” he said.

Sekgothe added that there was a plan to march on Vodaphone’s offices, Vodacom’s parent company in London in April.

Makate said he welcomed the support although he hadn’t met Lesufi or Sekgothe. “We are now entering what is the last battle,” he said.

However, Vodacom emphasised that it was up to Makate to come to an agreement.

“Vodacom is ready and willing to pay as soon as the requisite bank details are made available by Mr Makate’s attorneys. The ball is now in Mr Makate’s court,” said Kennedy.

Saturday Star

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