Nkosana Makate and Vodacom to slug it out
Vodacom will not pay spurious amounts in a bid to make the Please Call Me drama disappear, the telecommunications company said on Friday amid pressure from supporters of Nkosana Makate, the Please Call Me service inventor, to pay him R70bn.
Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy said the company "will not pay spurious, amounts that have no bearing on reality".
Vodacom has come under fire over an alleged amount of R49m it offered Makate as compensation for the Please Call Me idea, which he gave to the company while working there as a junior accountant in 2000.
After the company reneged on an agreement to pay him, he approached the courts. But the matter has dragged on for over a decade. The Constitutional Court ruled in 2016 that Vodacom enter talks to pay Makate reasonable compensation.
Neither Makate nor Vodacom has disclosed the compensation that Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub determined as the court-sanctioned arbiter, should negotiations deadlock as they did in December.
Makate has rejected the offer as an "insult" and is pursuing a judicial review.
He said his costs associated with the matter ran into "tens and tens of millions".
Asked to comment on Vodacom's claim that its offer was generous, he said: "We're not in generosity mode here. I've got a commercial contract with Vodacom and that is what I am enforcing." He declined to comment on what he considered a fair and reasonable amount, saying: "I'll leave that to the court after presenting all the facts to court."
But Nkateko Nyoka, Vodacom's head of legal and regulatory affairs, said: "The possibility of amending the offer doesn't exist."
He said the number determined was final and legally binding until determined otherwise by the court.
Vodacom CFO Till Streichert said R70bn was extreme and implied that "the entire profit of the SA business for the last six years" was due to Makate.
He said Vodacom had not seen any incremental revenue, "in particular because we've never been able to charge for it".
Yet the Constitutional Court, citing Vodacom's lawyer, said: "It is common cause that this product has generated revenue amounting to billions of rands." Vodacom's pre-listing statement in 2009 said 20-million Please Call Mes were transmitted daily and "that generates revenue for Vodacom".
Makate said: "We will prove to the courts that revenues for Please Call Me can be calculated, not only by my people but by Vodacom's own internal people. There are objective facts that point to that direction."..