Vodacom has revealed that R500,000 is the highest amount it has ever paid for an idea that helped the company, and it is much lower than what Kenneth Makate – the Please Call Me employee – is demanding.
Vodacom runs an Ideation programme to encourage employees to come up with ideas to help the company, with an annual prize pot of up to R1 million, after tax.
The exact allocation per winner and runners-up can vary, but first place winners have previously received R500,000, after tax, on a number of occasions.
The R500,000 which was paid to employees is far less than the reported R49 million which Vodacom offered Makate as compensation for his Please Call Me “idea”.
Although Vodacom will not confirm the amount offered due to confidentiality clauses in its negotiations with Makate, the company described it as a “significant amount of money and a windfall for Makate”.
Vodacom’s head of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, Nkateko Nyoka, has stated that Vodacom is waiting to pay Makate.
Makate, however, said he hasn’t reached any deal with Vodacom and described the amount offered to him as “shocking and an insult”.
Company programmes for ideas
Many companies run programmes to encourage employees to come up with new ideas.
Vodacom’s Ideation programme gives employees and permanent on-site contractors the opportunity to pitch their ideas to the company.
The staff members only have to email an outline of their proposal to the innovation department, run by Jannie van Zyl – Executive Head: Innovation at Vodacom.
A formal review panel at Vodacom then assesses these ideas to see if they are commercially viable.
Once the idea has been accepted and formally implemented, the idea and idea originator are entered into the annual innovation competition.
This is not unique to Vodacom. Under former FNB CEO Michael Jordaan, the bank started offering a million rand every year to an employee who comes up with a great idea and then implements it.
“This goes a long way towards creating the right type of culture within a large corporate which could otherwise be very bureaucratic,” said Jordaan.
On the Please Call Me matter, Vodacom recently admitted that the Please Call Me was invented and patented by MTN before Makate came up with the idea.
Despite this, Vodacom still decided to pay Makate compensation – which far exceeds the maximum amount paid to other Vodacom employees for their ideas.
This, however, did not prevent politicians and other commentators from attacking the company and calling for a higher settlement.
Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams told Vodacom to “just shut up” and said the company should not “talk to us until you have reached a settlement with [Makate’s] team”.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi also weighed in, and said people must stand by “Nkosana ‘Please Call Me’ Makate” against “this bully called Vodacom”.
Lesufi added that Makate must be protected from Vodacom and that the company must “pay him by the end of the month of face the wrath of the nation”.
Vodacom shutdown threatened
The “Please Call Me Movement” is now threatening to shut down Vodacom on 31 January if a settlement has not been reached.
The movement, which claims to be against corporate bullying and consumer injustice, said Vodacom owes Makate R70 billion for his idea.
“Join us as we will be shutting down Vodaworld in pursuit of justice for Nkosana Makate,” a recent flyer reads.