Vodacom is facing a continued onslaught from politicians and a lobby group to reach a mutually-agreed settlement in the Please Call Me matter.
This follows a statement by Vodacom earlier this month that its CEO had determined the amount of reasonable compensation payable to Kenneth Makate for his Please Call Me idea.
Makate responded to Vodacom’s statement, saying he has not agreed to anything and that “the amount that the CEO has determined is shocking and an insult”.
Vodacom retorted, explaining that the Constitutional Court order which ordered it to pay Makate does not require him to agree to the amount set by their CEO.
Vodacom said it considers the matter closed, and that Makate’s funds will be transferred as soon as they have his banking details.
Backlash from politicians
While Vodacom wants to move on from this issue, politicians and a lobby group called the “PleaseCallMe Movement” have other ideas.
Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams told Vodacom to “just shut up” recently, urging the company to “do the right thing, talk to Makate instead of this poor PR stunt”.
She added that Vodacom should not “talk to us until you have reached a settlement with his team”.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Twitter that people must stand by “Nkosana ‘Please Call Me’ Makate” against “this bully called Vodacom”.
Lesufi added 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”.
The Saturday Star quoted Lesufi as saying that “Vodacom should not ignore us” and “if they haven’t resolved the issue by 31 January, 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,” he said.
Lesufi added that he has been “in contact with South African embassies to get contacts that could assist in pressurising Vodacom overseas”.
Vodacom shutdown threatened
The PleaseCallMe Movement, headed by Modise Setoaba, is 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.
With so much focus on the battle between Vodacom and Makate, the true inventor of the Please Call Me service is seldom mentioned.
Ari Kahn, who previously consulted for MTN, created the “Call Me” technology in 2000 and said Vodacom has in private acknowledged him as the inventor of the service.
The SA Patent office granted the Call Me patent to Kahn and MTN, and recognised Kahn as the inventor on 22 January 2001.
As the true Please Call Me inventor, Kahn believes Makate should not get a cent from Vodacom for his “invention”.
Kahn said Makate was not the originator of Please Call Me, adding that the courts never once ruled he invented the service. “You cannot invent an idea – which is all he proposed,” said Kahn.
Kahn said Makate has no rights to the Please Call Me service and no rights to compensation as “the Kahn/MTN patent constitutes Prior Art”.
“The entire case has been portrayed as ‘the little guy denied his due by the big bully network’ to garner sympathy and obfuscate the fact that he did not actually invent the service,” Kahn said.