Nkosana Makate unfazed about claims he did not invent 'Please Call Me'

01 February 2019 - 07:22 By Ernest Mabuza
Nkosana Makate says there have been no talks between him and Vodacom in the past few days to resolve the "Please Call Me" matter.
Nkosana Makate says there have been no talks between him and Vodacom in the past few days to resolve the "Please Call Me" matter.
Image: Gallo Images / City Press / Leon Sadiki

“Please Call Me” inventor Nkosana Makate has poured cold water on the claim by former MTN consultant Ari Kahn that the idea was not something new and originally belonged to MTN.

The revelation by Kahn came on Thursday as hundreds of people descended on Vodacom’s headquarters in Midrand to demand compensation for Makate.

“It is not something new, to be fair. Vodacom have been telling me this for the past 10  years privately and I think they have come to a conscious point where they are saying they need to acknowledge the truth and the truth is what they are stating,” Kahn told 702, speaking from California in the US.

He said MTN had already sent hundreds of millions of “Please Call Me” messages over its public network before Vodacom launched its idea in 2001.

However, Makate said the question of the “invention” by MTN was extensively ventilated during the case in the Johannesburg High Court in 2014.

“(Counsel for Vodacom) Richard Solomons SC tried unsuccessfully to convince the court that the MTN patent was similar to the ‘Please Call Me’ concept and my US expert Ivan Zatkovich educated the court about the dissimilarities of the two products.

“Vodacom informed the court that they will call Mr Kahn as their expert witness and that never materialised. Mr Zatkovich’s evidence was accepted in totality by the high court,” Makate said.

In his judgment in 2014, Judge Philip Coppin said while Makate’s idea or proposal did not focus on technical aspects, it contained a business objective.

“His idea was that the service should be focused on a particular market, namely, that of people with prepaid cellular phones who were out of airtime,” Coppin said.

Coppin said the basic difference between Vodacom’s idea and the MTN patent was that the former identified a particular market and a particular problem that needed to be solved.

“The MTN patent, on the other hand, gave no indication of what market it was directed at. (Vodacom’s) ‘Please Call Me’ product eventually resolved to target people who had no airtime,” Coppin said.

Makate also said there had been no talks between him and Vodacom to reach an agreement in the past few days.

“You know that the matter has been finalised by the CEO (Shameel Joosub) and I am heading to courts to review the ridiculous and flawed determination by the CEO,” Makate said.