Vodacom has been warned that it has until 10am on Thursday to pay Please Call Me inentor Nkosana Makate or face the wrath of citizens. File image: Vodacom. IOL.
Giant network provider Vodacom is facing the wrath of customers and citizens over its long battle with former employee Nkosana Makate, who invented the Please Call Me service.

Vodacom has been warned that it has until 10am on Thursday to pay Makate or face the wrath of citizens who are mobilising for a total shutdown of services at Vodacom stores.

The #PleaseCallMe movement has urged all South Africans to unite in support of Makate, who has been battling to get Vodacom to pay him for his invention since 2007.

The cellular provider was believed to have made billions from the service which allowed subscribers, who did not have airtime, to send a free call request message to recipients.

#PleaseCallMe movement convener Modise Setoaba said: “If they do not pay, we will demonstrate there (VodaWorld and Vodacom stores) and shut down Vodacom until that (payment) happens.

“We will never allow Vodacom to ever operate until they pay Makate,” Setoaba stressed

“Vodacom have sent a notice to their staff (at VodaWorld in Midrand and Joburg), saying they will not open on Thursday (tomorrow), and told staff to work from home. They are already prepared for us coming there on Thursday.

“What they do not know is that what we are doing is not a once-off thing.”

Setoaba encouraged citizens to occupy Vodacom outlets across the country and the network’s subscribers to port their cellphone numbers to other providers.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court instructed Vodacom and Makate to negotiate and to agree on reasonable compensation payable to him, but this has not happened, with Makate rejecting Vodacom’s “ridiculous” offers to settle the matter.

Vodacom’s chief officer of legal and regulatory affairs, Nkateko Nyoka, said: “Firstly, Please Call Me was an idea, but not an original one. It had already been invented and subsequently patented by MTN. In fact, MTN launched its version, Call Me, the month before Vodacom did.”

But Makate hit back, saying: “Did the legal head of Vodacom listen to (former Vodacom chief executive) Alan Knott-Craig’s court testimony before writing about PCM (Please Call Me)? Alan said Voda was first to launch PCM, not MTN.”

Knott-Craig and Vodacom were found to have lied about who invented the product.

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said they were aware of the planned protest. “As a responsible corporate, and in the normal course of business, we have plans in place to manage any eventuality. We would like to reiterate that we have fully complied with the order of the Constitutional Court and that we are ready and willing to pay Mr Makate a substantial amount of money, soonest. The ball is now in Mr Makate’s court,” Kennedy said.

Vodacom has been labelled a bully by Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi, who was also calling for a boycott.

@lebzang responded to Lesufi, tweeting: “MEC, you are true leadership. Can’t let one of our own be bullied. His victory is also ours.”