Blow for Vodacom in Please Call Me case

Vodacom has suffered a blow in its case against claimed Please Call Me concept creator Nkosana Makate, with the court dismissing an appeal from the operator regarding providing documents showing how much money it earned from the idea.

However, in an interview with eNCA, Makate described the order as moot, considering it has come almost a year after Vodacom’s appeal.

“We have actually moved on. The judgement is almost a year late,” said Makate.

“This is an old application where Vodacom required a variation of an order. So, it isn’t really an order for them to hand over documents now.”

“But it does actually dismiss their appeal and their variation order,” he added.

He said Vodacom had requested that the court vary the order to provide the contracts and documents, as it claimed it didn’t have the documentation.

“This order was issued a while ago. I did get some documents. They claim that some [documents] were not in their possession,” said Makate.

“The documents were quite critical for us at the time when we went for the review, but because they said that they did not have the documents, we said we will work with what we have.”

He explained that he never believed Vodacom’s claim that they didn’t have the requested documents.

“Vodacom was adamant that they wanted the order varied, even though I had said I am moving on and I will work with what I have,” said Makate. “I still don’t believe them [Vodacom].”

“We argued that this wasn’t necessary and it shouldn’t have been put before the court.”

He added that this appears to have been Vodacom’s tactic throughout, even accusing CEO Shameel Joosub of trying to frustrate proceedings.

“This has been the practice that Vodacom has applied throughout,” said Makate.

Shameel Joosub, Vodacom CEO

“If you look at the judgement that came out in 2016. The efforts of frustrating that order happened throughout the negotiations and ultimately, I think, in the CEO’s determination.”

Vodacom told MyBroadband that as the matter stands, the recent judgement by Justice Ledwaba seems to be of pure academic value and isn’t likely to have any bearing on its appeal before the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Makate said his team is awaiting a judgement from the Supreme Court of Appeal on the matter.

Makate is a former Vodacom employee and claims he invented the Please Call Me service in 2000. He said his boss at the time, Philip Geissler, promised in an oral agreement to facilitate remuneration negotiations with the company.

Vodacom publicly acknowledged him for the idea but never paid him, as it didn’t compensate employees for ideas beyond their regular pay.

In May 2023, the case was brought before the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Vodacom had won leave to appeal High Court Judge Wendy Hughes’ ruling that the R47 million it ultimately offered Makate was calculated incorrectly.

Vodacom explained that Joosub considered four different models that could have been used to determine Makate’s compensation, which yielded the following figures:

  • R51.5 million
  • R21.8 million
  • R42.2 million
  • R38.1 million

The R47 million was calculated by rounding up from the average of the two most favourable outcomes for Makate.

However, Makate believes he deserves anything from 5% to 15% of the revenue Vodacom generated from Please Call Me, which has been reported as anything from R9 billion to R110 billion.

Makate and Vodacom have been entwined in a legal battle for over 15 years. He sent his first letter of demand to the mobile operator in 2007 before launching legal action against it in 2008.

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Blow for Vodacom in Please Call Me case