#PleaseCallMe saga 'in final lap' as inventor prepares to face off against Vodacom for R10bn | Fin24
 
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#PleaseCallMe saga 'in final lap' as inventor prepares to face off against Vodacom for R10bn

Aug 19 2019 15:14
Tehillah Niselow, Fin24

Despite the legal saga dragging on for nine years, inventor of the Please Call me function, Nkosana Makate says he still has a lot of fight left in him as he heads back to the high court to determine how much Vodacom owes him.

In court papers filed August 8, Makate reveals for the first time that Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub decided on a settlement figure of R47m in October 2018. This was previously part of a confidentiality clause between Makate and the network operator.

Now he wants the high court to review this figure and set it aside. The final offered amount followed two years of negotiations, ordered by the Constitutional Court in April 2016 and Joosub was appointed as the deadlock breaker should Vodacom and Makate not reach an agreement.

The mobile network previously opposed Makate’s applications to lower courts to be renumerated for the idea he came up with in 2000 while working there as a trainee accountant. 

The Please Call Me application is a free service that sends an SMS to someone, requesting to be called back, without requiring airtime.  

Procedurally Flawed

In his affidavit, Makate maintains that Vodacom acted in bad faith throughout the negotiations and Joosub’s decision was “procedurally and substantively flawed”. Instead, he is asking for R10.2bn, a figure his team believes is closer to the amount Vodacom earned from the Please Call Me service.  

Makate told Fin24 he is in his “final lap and it should not be long before there is finality.”

He added that taking the R47m settlement now would be like running a 100km race and giving up at 95km. His court papers acknowledge that the R47m on the table “sounds significant but its merely 0.023% of the R205bn in call revenue the group earned from 2001 to 2020”, excluding revenue from advertising and the please recharge me service. 

Makate also has a massive legal bill following nine years of litigation against the group. He still works a daily job as an accountant at the South African Local Government Association (Salga). He admitted it was difficult to do this at first, knowing he was on the cusp of being a millionaire or billionaire, but he has since got used to this.

'An Unjaundiced Mind'

In his court papers, Makate requests that Joosub submit an index of the investigations or research that he used to make the R47m determination as both parties and the court “are entitled to know this.” “If Joosub did not comply with being fair, reasonable and objective, the court is entitled to intervene, “Makate’s affidavit reads. 

He further asks the court not to refer the matter back to Joosub. 

“The misdirections and errors … are so manifest that it would be an unenviable task for him to bring to bear on the matter, an objective and unjaundiced mind,” Makate states. 

He told Fin24 that the mobile operator has 10 working days to file notice with intention to oppose his papers and they have not yet done this yet.  

Makate’s legal team are also applying for the case to be enrolled on the company court roll, instead of civil proceedings which will shorten the time frames. 

A Vodacom spokesperson said that they could not comment as the matter is before the courts, except to say that they will oppose Makate’s application. 

“Vodacom still holds the view that it entered into negotiations and negotiated with Mr. Makate and his team in good faith, in accordance with the Order of the Constitutional Court,” the Vodacom statement read.  

Vodacom’s share price was unaffected by news of the looming litigation and was up 1.6% to R115.86 on the JSE at 14:20 on Monday.

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