JOHANNESBURG – Mr Nkosana Makate, 42, the man who proposed and invented Please Call Me is returning in court to challenge the R47 million ($3,043,626.00) settlement that Vodacom previously offered him.
Makate has been in a battle with the South African telecom giant Vodacom for 18 years and this stems from a disagreement on what compensation is viable for his idea.
He wants the court to order a new process for his compensation, and also wants to have access to revenue Vodacom has generated from the service over the years.
Please Call Me is a free service invented in 2001, that enables a cellphone user without airtime to send an SMS requesting a return call from another subscriber. It has been around for more than 18 years.
In a 58-page notice of motion in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria filed last week, Mr Makate accused Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub of acting “irregularly, unreasonably, irrationally, unfairly, unjustly and inequitably” in his determination of the compensation he was eventually offered.
In a 2016 court verdict, the Constitutional Court ruled that Makate was entitled to compensation, and if there was a deadlock in negotiations on compensation, Vodacom’s CEO would be the final arbiter of the award.
“If Vodacom’s litigation strategy left a ‘sour taste’, its negotiation strategies were even worse,” Mr Makate said.
Mr Makate revealed that he created the Please Call Me 18 years ago and then he gave it to his boss at the time, Mr Phillip Geissler, who then submitted it to Vodacom. An agreement was reached and Mr Geissler told Makate verbally that he would negotiate emoluments with the firm.
“I immediately appreciate that R47m sounds like a significant sum of money. But it must be appreciated that it is in fact merely 0.023% of the R205bn ($13,293,122,500) in call revenue that my team calculated that [Please Call Me] earned Vodacom from 2001,” Makate said in his affidavit as revealed by Business Live.
He wants 5% of the total income plus interest accrued from March 2001, some north of R10.25 billion ($663,769,500.00) which will make him one of the richest people in South Africa.
Albeit the Constitutional Court ruling, which Makate started, he now wants the North Gauteng High Court to appoint a new referee for fresh negotiations, saying the company’s CEO would not be “objective.”
In his affidavit, Makate raised the following issues
Against Joosub (Vodacom CEO). He said it was incorrect to consider revenue generated over five years as the base for calculating Makate’s share because Vodacom had benefited for 18 years from the service and continued to do so.
He also rejected Joosub’s method of averaging the outcomes of the two most profitable models out of four to arrive at the final figure, without adding interest.
Makate also said the proceedings before Mr Joosub were “inherently unfair” because Vodacom refused to provide information showing the revenue earned through Please Call Me.
As a result, Makate says, Joosub relied on incorrect figures for the revenue earned by Vodacom.
Makate wants the court to coerce Vodacom to release revenue figures and other documents to him.
Vodacom says they are not in a position to comment on Mr Makate’s application, but they insist they negotiated with him in good faith.
Numerous politicians including the Minister of Communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, earlier this year affirmed their support for Makate and have called on Vodacom to reach an agreement with Makate. The former public protector Thuli Madonsela also asked Vodacom to do the “right thing”.
There have also been demonstrations in the support of Makate outside the Vodacom Head Office in Midrand.