Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)
Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Please Call Me inventor edges closer to victory with latest court win

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published Jul 1, 2020

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Vodacom has been ordered to hand Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate all the documents he needed to prove that he was owed more than R47million.

This is the amount that the telecoms giant wanted to pay Makate following his victory at the Constitutional Court in 2016.

The apex court ruled that he invented the service in 2000 when he was still employed by Vodacom.

The group was ordered to negotiate in good faith with Makate to determine reasonable compensation. But four years after the ruling, the parties were still engaged in legal battles over the amount Makate should receive.

The negotiations that ensued after the Concourt’s ruling did not result in what Makate believed was reasonable compensation for his idea.

After Vodacom offered him R47m as a settlement, Makate turned to the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to seek an order setting aside the decision.

Makate’s grounds were that Vodacom erred by basing its offer on a five-year revenue share. He also maintained that the group used incorrect figures for revenue generated over the five-year period.

Vodacom’s offer should have been based on revenue made over 18 years and not just five, Makate argued in court papers.

He also revealed that, during the negotiations, Vodacom failed to give him data showing the revenue earned from the Please Call Me concept.

Makate’s main application for review of the R47m decision is still to be heard. But he tasted victory in an interlocutory application brought to compel Vodacom to hand over volumes of data, including revenue records it withheld during negotiations.

Vodacom opposed the application, which was heard by Justice Jody Kollapen, on grounds that the revenue figures Makate sought would have to be drawn from billions of data based on calls customers made over the years.

Vodacom argued that such data was not available, as it only stored six months worth of call data at any given time. Vodacom charged that even if such data was available, Makate was not entitled to it.

Makate disputed that the underlying data and financial information he sought was not available.

Vodacom assigned a senior analyst to supply similar records during the Concourt hearing and the exercise took about two weeks, argued Makate.

He maintained that while raw data relating to calls would no longer exist, it was reasonable to expect Vodacom to be able to provide data on voice revenue income.

Justice Kollapen was swayed by this argument, ruling that evidence indicated that while raw data no longer existed it was “possible to disaggregate the revenue income”.

He ruled that any compensation amount not based on revenue data would be speculative and not accurate.

“Ultimately the amount of that liability lay outside of the control of (Vodacom),” said Justice Kollapen.

The documents he ordered Vodacom to supply Makate included financial records and copies of contracts with groups such as iBurst, Netcare 082 911, Look4Help, Centriq Insurance and Smart Call.

Vodacom also had to give Makate pages from a KPMG 2008 forensic report that looked into its revenue sharing model with an undisclosed service provider.

Yesterday, Makate told The Star Justice Kollapen’s ruling would secure him some critical data he needed for his main application. “This judgment is very important. We could not finalise my papers (filed for the main application) without the documents that Vodacom withheld,” he said.

In a statement Vodacom said: “We are reviewing Justice Kollapen’s judgment where after a decision on appropriate next steps, including the possibility of an appeal, will be taken.

Makate’s case before Justice Kollapen was not about the reasonableness of the quantum of the compensation payable to him, but rather the production of the record by the deadlock breaker, and further and better discovery of documentation.”

The telecoms giant said it remained committed to compensating Makate. 

@BonganiNkosi87

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