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The end is near, says Makate on Vodacom legal battle

‘Please Call Me’ inventor rejected R47m settlement

Isaac Mahlangu Senior reporter
Nkosana Makate says Vodacom standoff is near the end.
Nkosana Makate says Vodacom standoff is near the end.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

“Please Call Me” inventor Nkosana Makate believes the “end is near” in his protracted legal battle with Vodacom for recognition of his idea, which brought in revenue for the mobile communications giant.

The Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA) in Bloemfontein on Tuesday ordered Vodacom to make a fresh determination within 30 days to compensate Makate for his invention as it also set aside the R47m offer he rejected in January 2019.

Speaking after the ruling was handed down, Makate said he was thrilled as the second highest court had  “cleared ambiguities that may have existed” after the high court judgment, which Vodacom appealed.

“I think what this judgment has done is to basically provide us with a line of march on what needs to be done. So, there’s really nothing that needs to occupy my mind because I know what needs to be done. If the CEO can’t do that, we can do that for him in any event. There’s nothing ambiguous about this,” Makate said.

Makate said the latest ruling had successfully cleared all issues.

“The end is near, even with the Constitutional Court within 30 days, they would have to petition [the apex court] and the Constitutional Court can still rule within a couple of days. Even if they get a hearing at the Constitutional Court, it can still happen this year and this matter could be done and dusted before the end of this year,” Makate added.

A Vodacom spokesperson told Sowetan sister publication TimesLIVE Premium on Tuesday: “Vodacom notes the judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa in the case of Vodacom (Pty) Ltd v Makate (Please Call Me matter), which was handed down on 6 February 2024. Vodacom is surprised and disappointed with the judgment and will bring an application for leave to appeal before the Constitutional Court of South Africa.”

Makate said he believed that even if Vodacom wanted to take this matter to the Constitutional Court once more, it may be a quicker process.

In April 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that Vodacom was bound to an agreement that Makate had with the company’s then director of product development Phillip Geissler.

The court ordered Vodacom to begin negotiations with Makate for a reasonable payout to compensate him. Makate initially demanded 15% of the Please Call Me proceeds. “Vodacom has the right to do that [take it to the Constitutional Court] but they have to come up with a Constitutional point, and we don’t see any currently with this judgment. These are numbers, and the Constitutional Court doesn’t deal with numbers, they deal with matters of the constitution,” Makate said on Tuesday afternoon.

SCA Judge Ashton Scheepers upheld the Pretoria high court ruling and set the R47m offered to Makate aside. He gave Vodacom a month to “determine the amount of reasonable compensation due to Makate”  in accordance to four models of Joosub’s of January 2019 “solely on the basis that the second respondent (Joosub) would have awarded the applicant a contract for 18 years, commencing on 1 March 2001 and terminating on 28 February 2019”.

Scheepers set aside Joosub’s R47m offer to Makate, saying it was “manifestly inequitable”.

“The issue of whether R47m is manifestly inequitable must be considered in the context of the duration of the contract for which Mr Makate is entitled to be compensated as determined by the CEO, Scheepers stated in his ruling.

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