Home » ‘Please Call Me’ inventor Nkosana Makate faces setback as Vodacom rejects $1.5-billion payment

‘Please Call Me’ inventor Nkosana Makate faces setback as Vodacom rejects $1.5-billion payment

Inside Makate's fight for recognition and compensation from Vodacom

by Omokolade Ajayi
Nkosana Makate

Vodacom Group, South Africa’s leading telecommunications provider, has escalated its legal battle with former employee Nkosana Makate over compensation for the invention of the “Please Call Me” service, approaching the country’s Constitutional Court to appeal a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

According to Bloomberg, the move follows the SCA’s decision favoring Makate, ordering Vodacom to pay him between 5-10 percent of the total revenue generated by the service over the past 18 years. This ruling potentially amounts to a staggering sum ranging from R29 billion ($1.5 billion) to R55 billion ($2.85 billion).

CEO sounds alarm: Vodacom warns of sweeping impact from SCA compensation

In response, Vodacom issued a statement on Wednesday, asserting that aspects of the SCA judgment are inconsistent with the spirit of the law, labeling the orders as “unintelligible, incomprehensible, and vague.”

Vodacom’s CEO, Shameel Joosub, underlined the potential broad impact of the compensation outlined in the SCA judgment. The company argued that if upheld, the ruling could adversely affect its operations, the Vodacom group, and South Africa’s attractiveness as an investment destination.

Concerns were raised about the potential negative consequences on employees, shareholders, public finances, network investment, coverage, and social programs.

Inside Nkosana Makate’s fight for recognition and compensation from Vodacom

Makate, the former Vodacom employee who brought the case to court in 2008, claimed that the “Please Call Me” concept, allowing users to send a free message to request a call, was his original invention. The legal dispute began when Makate asserted that he never received payment for the profitable service.

In 2008, Makate entered negotiations with Vodacom seeking a 15-percent cut of the R70 billion ($4.74 billion) he claimed the “Please Call Me” service had earned for the company. After years of legal battles, in February 2024, the SCA dismissed Vodacom’s appeal and ordered the telecom giant to compensate Makate as per the initial ruling.

Notably, a previous order by the Constitutional Court had tasked CEO Shameel Joosub with determining fair compensation, which he calculated at R47 million ($2.44 million) at the time. Vodacom’s latest move to appeal the SCA decision puts a temporary halt to the payout order, adding another layer to this protracted legal dispute.

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