Johannesburg - Despite Wednesday’s cease-and-desist letter that was sent to Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, he is continuing to support Nkosana Makate, who has been battling to get the network provider to compensate him for inventing the free message service in 2000.
At a media briefing at the ANC’s Liliesleaf Farm branch, the movement again called on people to cancel their contracts and port to other networks in support of Makate.
Vodacom was given until 10am on Thursday to pay Makate or "feel the wrath of the nation”.
“Vodacom has already sent a communique to all its institutions that it is not going to be operating on Thursday (because of the protest action). Vodacom has already said they are closing all the shops,” said Lesufi.
“If they don’t resolve the matter, unfortunately, we are giving South Africans a chance to decide how they respond to this brand. We are not encouraging people to be violent; we are not calling for people to disrupt or destroy property or loot.
“We want to resolve the impasse. If it’s resolved by 10am, all the better. If it's not, then we just have to find a way of putting pressure on Vodacom to resolve the matter,” said the ANC Gauteng deputy chairperson.
In response to the letter, Lesufi wrote on Twitter: “Bring it on @Vodacom! I am not easily intimidated. You can’t bully me or silence my support to the weak and vulnerable. This is a democratic country and I have the right to express my views without fear. The apartheid regime detained me without trial. I am not scared.”
There was "a rolling programme of action that will ensure that Vodacom comes to negotiate and resolve the matter”.
“We are also calling on South Africans not to attend all Vodacom-sponsored activities - it can be sporting, racing, any activity that is supported by or where the participants are sponsored by Vodacom.
“We are calling on our people to immediately terminate their contracts with Vodacom so that Vodacom can understand that they have angered society,” Lesufi said.
The movement’s convener, Modise Setoaba, said the protests would not stop until Vodacom paid up.
“The movement is against corporate bullying and consumer injustice. We strive to fight against the stealing of intellectual property and related injustices wherever they surface,” Setoaba said.
Lesufi said he was willing to lobby the government and public institutions to cancel contracts associated with Vodacom.
“We are starting discussions with international organisations which we know are pro-customer to assist us to isolate Vodacom and its brand internationally.
“We are going to formally register our displeasure and dissatisfaction on how Vodacom is handling this matter. We believe this matter deserves their attention and we ask for their support,” Lesufi said.
He called on all Vodacom customers “to request airtime and data in advance and refuse to pay so that Vodacom can taste its own medicine”.
Former public protector Professor Thuli Madonsela said on Twitter: “The best thing for @Vodacom is to simply #DoTheRightThing regarding the #PleaseCallMe debacle.”
Makate has declined several offers, including the recent R49 million put on the table by Vodacom, which made billions from the service, saying they were an “insult and ridiculous”.
The movement is demanding R70bn in compensation.
Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said: “We are ready and willing to pay Mr Makate a substantial amount of money, soonest. The ball is now in Mr Makate’s court.”