Court blow to Vodacom in ‘please call me’ saga

Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub

The almost two decade-long legal drama between Vodacom Group and its former employee, Nkosana Makate, the “inventor” of the “please call me” service, is still not over.

On Tuesday, it emerged that the supreme court of appeal has ordered Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub to make a new offer to Makate based on the assumption that Makate had an 18-year contract with the company.

Unless Vodacom appeals the matter to the constitutional court, it now appears likely that it will have to cough up significantly more to Makate than the R47-million it had previously offered him. That offer was rejected by Makate and his legal team.

In February 2022, the high court Pretoria on Tuesday found that Vodacom had not offered Makate enough in settlement for his “invention” of the “please call me” offering. That prompted Vodacom to appeal the case to the supreme court of appeal.

Although just who invented the “please call me” idea is strongly disputed, the constitutional court found that Makate had in fact done so and was entitled to be paid for the invention. The apex court left it up to Joosub to determine a fair pay-out amount..

High court justice Wendy Hughes had ruled that Makate was entitled to 5% of the total voice revenue generated from “please call me” over a 20-year period, the report said. Makate had previously claimed he is owed at least R10-billion in compensation from Vodacom.

Vodacom launched an application for leave to appeal on 25 February 2022 against the high court judgment and order. The supreme court has now given detailed instructions as to how Vodacom and Joosub must determine fair compensation to its former employee.

The figure must take into account the time value of money, calculated at an average inflation rate of 5%, from 1 March 2001 to 28 February 2019, and has to be made within 30 calendar days of the date of the new order.

The costs of the application, including the costs of two counsel, are also to be borne by Vodacom.

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