“Please Call Me” Inventor Wants Sh352 Million Offer from Vodacom Reviewed Upwards

"Please call me inventor, Nkosana Makate (Photo courtesy)

Nkosana Makate has headed back to the courts, applying for a review of R47 million (351,752,081) offered to him by Vodacom for his “Please call me” invention.

South African Telecom operator Vodacom offered the inventor of the popular service  “Please Call Me” R47 million after negotiations. The counsel for Vodacom chief executive Shameel Joosub said the amount was fair, and that if anything, he had been overly generous.

The case which has span for 21 years may finally be coming to a close, but only if Makate decides to accept the offer. However, the inventor has asked the court to review the amount from Vodacom and set it aside as he argues that the correct figure should be closer to R10 billion (Sh75 billion)

Read: Vodacom Launches 5G Network in South Africa

Makate has expressed confidence in his application to the review the figures currently being presided over by the Gauteng High Court. Judge Wendy Hughes is hearing the matter virtually as counsel present their case from offices at Menlyn Corporate Park.

Vodacom made the offer to Makate after the constitutional court ordered the telco to enter into negotiations with the inventor to determine fair compensation.

According to Makate’s Advocate Gilbert Marcus, the case was a classic example of betrayal. He argued that Vodacom was raking in huge profits from the product and was “smiling all the way to the bank.”

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Joosub said he did not oppose Makate’s application, and that he would cooperate with the court’s decision. He however said that Vodacom was opposed to the review. It was determined that in the negotiations, Joosub had considered both models presented by all parties to come to a fair solution but he said that Makate’s model was flawed and consisted of unrealistic numbers.

Joosub raised concerns on a number of issues including the number of Please Call Me messages, the call rates and the duration of the responding calls on which Makate’s models were based.

The judge questioned Joosub’s counsel regarding the calculations in his models for lack of concrete proof, wondering if it was “just plucked from the air”.

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The bottom line was that Makate is entitled to 5 percent of the revenue generated by Vodacom from the service, however, quantifying and calculating the amounts to arrive at a specific figure is proving to be a challenge.

Makate’s advocate asked the court to bring to an end the matter, given how long it had lasted. He said it would be inappropriate to send the matter back to court to determine a new figure. He said that if the matter were to be remitted back to Vodacom, the judge should offer strict guidelines on the conduct of the Chief Executive.

Makate’s lawyer, Cedric Puckrin expressed dismay over Vodacom’s claims of not knowing exactly how much revenue had been generated from the product. The telco said that it could not give an exact time on how long the calls lasted, but it was less than two minutes. Makate’s counsel argued that data from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa showed that it was usually longer than two minutes.

Read also: Safaricom Now Among the Top Ten Most Valuable Firms in Africa

The case goes back to the year 2000 when Makate, then a young trainee accountant at Vodacom came up with the genius idea.

“Makate was promised compensation. It is common cause that Vodacom has earned billions of rand from Mr Makate’s idea. Despite the product being such an overwhelming success, Vodacom refused to negotiate compensation for the use of the idea,” Marcus said.

Makate then tried to negotiate for compensation for the product from his employer, but was rebuked, hence the court case.

Vodacom is expected to present its arguments today, including details of the calculations leading to the R47 million offer.

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Written by Vanessa Murrey

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