Please Call Me saga – Makate ready for new court battle

Kenneth Makate has confirmed he is approaching the courts for a judicial review of the compensation offer made to him by Vodacom.

In a column written by Makate, he stated that there have been “disparaging articles” which “cast aspersions on my Please Call Me claim” and he wanted to state the facts on the matter.

He said the Constitutional Court has found in his favour that he pitched the “Please Call Me” idea to Vodacom which it later successfully launched.

His idea included a USSD menu that would offer the service to prepaid and contract subscribers with or without airtime, and in a subsequent affidavit to the high court “Vodacom confirmed Please Call Me was my brainchild”.

He added that MTN published its patents for its “interactive voice recognition” Call Me service in May 2001 – long after Vodacom launched the Please Call Me to staff in February 2001.

Charity case

Following his Constitutional Court victory against Vodacom in 2016, Makate said Vodacom has conducted itself unethically, including in negitions with him over the “reasonable compensation” he must receive as part of the court’s ruling.

“The CEO’s determination considers me a charity case, ignoring the fact I have a binding commercial agreement with Vodacom. I only requested 15% yet I am portrayed as greedy. No one is asking how much revenue Vodacom has generated from Please Call Me,” said Makate.

Makate also went on to deny that he has ever asked Vodacom for R70 billion – a figure touted by the Please Call Me Movement. “The truth of the R70-billion liability will be dealt with in court papers,” he said.

It has been reported that Vodacom offered Makate R49 million for his involvement in the Please Call Me service, but he declined the offer.

According to litigation funder Chris Schoeman, the R49-million offer is very generous, and Makate should take it.

However, the reason why Makate is not accepting the offer is because he is technically “bankrupt” and owes many people a lot of money, said Schoeman.

The truth

The battle between Makate and Vodacom is essentially irrelevant according to Ari Kahn, however, who previously consulted for MTN and created the “Call Me” technology in 2000.

He said Vodacom has in private acknowledged him as the inventor of the service, and the SA Patent Office granted the Call Me patent to Kahn and MTN, and recognized 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”.

Vodacom publicly admitted in early 2019 that the Please Call Me was invented and subsequently patented by MTN before Makate came up with the idea.

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Please Call Me saga – Makate ready for new court battle