Vodacom doesn’t want to pay billions to Please Call Me creator

  • Vodacom and Please Call Me creator Nkosana Makate have returned to court to dispute how much money the telecom giant should pay the innovator.
  • The telecom argues that a Pretoria High Court decision for the payment of five percent of total voice revenues of Please Call Me to Makate is flawed.
  • Makate says he should be paid anywhere from R28 billion to R110 billion from Vodacom.

Seven years after the creator of the “Please Call Me” feature Nkosana Makate beat Vodacom in the South African Constitutional Court, Makete and the telecom, one of the largest on the continent, are back in court.

On Tuesday Vodacom and Makete appeared before the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein, where Vodacom is expected to dispute a previous ruling made by a Pretoria High Court to pay Makete five percent of the total voice revenue generated by the telecom’s Please Call Me services from March 2001 to March 2021.

According to SABC News, Makate claims this means he is to receive anywhere from R28 billion to R110 billion from Vodacom, which is no wonder the company is hastily trying to appeal. Instead, Vodacom says that its R47 million offer to Makate is a reasonable compensation.

The Con Court awarded Makate the case in 2016 after he proved himself to be the creator of Please Call Me, and that former CEO of Vodacom Alan Knott passed off the idea as his own as Makate was just a trainee at the time.

Makate says all he wanted was to be co-owners of Please Call Me with Vodacom, and to be compensated on a percentage share basis similar to how other companies handle such innovations and their creators.

Instead, Vodacom denied his claims of ownership and now has to pay. Makate has since rejected Vodacom’s R47 million offer, saying instead that Please Call Me has made Vodacom billions of Rands since its launch.

The telecom is appealing the Pretoria High Court’s five percent decision on the basis that Makate used “conceptually and fundamentally flawed” maths to arrive at the figure for compensation. It also calls the calculation “grossly exaggerated.”

It further argues that the high court has given Makate a 20-year revenue share seemingly without explanation.

Makate in response, says that the high court is “correct” and “entirely appropriate” in its judgement. He wants the SCA to dismiss Vodacom’s case and for Vodacom to pay for Makate’s legal counsel.

Losing any amount approaching a billion Rand and above to Makate would be a heavy blow to Vodacom, and would mark among the largest court payouts in the history of South Africa. In its latest financial results (PDF) for the year ended March 2022, Vodacom announced that it made R21.1 billion in profits.

[Image – CC BY 2.0 Photo by ITU Pictures on Flickr]


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