Business Technology

Please Call Me Saga – Huge Fight Over Who Gets The Money

Nkosana Makate

Nkosana Makate

Nkosana Makate, the “inventor” of Vodacom’s Please Call Me service, is set to witness another round of battle in his fight to get “reasonable compensation” from Vodacom.

According to a report by the Sunday Times, a group which funded Makate’s initial legal case against Vodacom – Raining Men Trade – will launch an application to remove the arbitrator who is overseeing an important aspect of the case.

The report stated that advocate Andrew Mabena is the arbitrator in the matter of whether Makate’s “financiers” are entitled to a share of his Vodacom payout.

It added that Raining Men Trade’s business rescue practitioner said the arbitration – which was set for June – will deal with Makate’s agreement with the group.

“We’re looking at a long-haul litigation still. It will be long before we get to the arbitration,” said a Raining Men Trade representative. He added that there is a 2016 court order which states the funders are “entitled to half of Makate’s award”.

Makate, however, said that there is no talk of settling with his funders and “there is nothing that can be offered to them”.

“That ship has long left the harbour,” said Makate.

Long fight

The latest legal acti0n in the case comes after Makate was reportedly offered R49 million by Vodacom as compensation in the Please Call Me matter.

Litigation funder Chris Schoeman said in January that the R49-million offer was very generous, and Makate should take it.

He added that he instructed his lawyers to tell Makate’s lawyers to take the offer, as Schoeman is owed money for legal funding he provided Makate.

The reason why Makate is not accepting the offer, however, is because he is technically “bankrupt” and owes many people a lot of money, he said.

Schoeman said that after Makate won his Constitutional Court battle against Vodacom, he went on a “spending spree” and people were throwing money at him.

The following month, Makate confirmed he was approaching the courtsfor a judicial review of the compensation offer made to him by Vodacom.

He stated that there have been “disparaging articles” which “cast aspersions on my Please Call Me claim” and he wanted to state the facts on the matter.

Following his Constitutional Court victory against Vodacom in 2016, Makate said Vodacom has conducted itself unethically, including in negitions with him over the “reasonable compensation” he must receive as part of the court’s ruling.

“[Vodacom’s] CEO’s determination considers me a charity case, ignoring the fact I have a binding commercial agreement with Vodacom. I only requested 15% yet I am portrayed as greedy. No one is asking how much revenue Vodacom has generated from Please Call Me,” said Makate.

The truth

The battle between Makate and Vodacom is essentially irrelevant according to Ari Kahn, however, who previously consulted for MTN and created the “Call Me” technology in 2000.

He said Vodacom has in private acknowledged him as the inventor of the service, and the SA Patent Office granted the Call Me patent to Kahn and MTN, and recognised Kahn as the inventor, on 22 January 2001.

As the true Please Call Me inventor, Kahn believes Makate should not get a cent from Vodacom for his “invention”.

Vodacom publicly admitted in early 2019 that the Please Call Me was invented and subsequently patented by MTN before Makate came up with the idea.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende