NKOSANA MAKATE | Facts about my 18-year battle with Vodacom

17 February 2019 - 06:42
Nkosana Makate. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Nkosana Makate. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Numerous disparaging articles have cast aspersions on my Please Call Me claim, which was proven and upheld by the Constitutional Court and the high court. It is important to give the facts of what has transpired, and where we are today as, with deep sadness, I approach our courts for a judicial review.

My product proposal of November 21 2000 shows that Please Call Me targeted prepaid and contract subscribers with or without airtime. The false claim peddled by Vodacom is that I proposed a product only for those without airtime.

Vodacom's product description document, which used my entire product proposal, was signed by all Vodacom directors in 2001 and the evidence shows Alan Knott-Craig snr confirmed that my product proposal formed the core basis of the Vodacom product document known today as the USSD-based Please Call Me product.

It is misleading, then, to say the current Please Call Me product differs from the product proposal I submitted to Vodacom.

Vodacom announced the launch on February 9 2001 to staff, thanking me for the idea, and flaunted me in their official Talktime magazine dated March 2001. In Vodacom's own words, "Call Me is a world first".

Vodacom's product description document states that competitor "MTN is not currently offering a similar service". The MTN patent was published on May 31 2001 and used interactive voice recognition, not the USSD platform launched by Vodacom. In an affidavit to the high court, Vodacom confirmed Please Call Me was my "brainchild".

On July 1 2014 the high court found that the agreement between myself and Vodacom was based on a share of revenue. The court also found that Knott-Craig, who claimed to be the inventor of Please Call Me in his book Second Is Nothing, had lied under oath about inventing Please Call Me.

I subsequently lost the high court case on two technical aspects, prescription and authority. This led to my unsuccessful approach to the Supreme Court of Appeal. Thereafter I approached the Constitutional Court, which on April 26 2016 upheld the high court's judgment that there was a binding commercial agreement on revenue share, and overturned the judgment against me on prescription and ostensible authority.

The Constitutional Court's finding against Vodacom included that it had invoked apartheid legislation to prevent me from exercising the same right of access to court. This leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

This unethical behaviour has permeated Vodacom's conduct throughout negotiations with me. The CEO's determination considers me a charity case, ignoring the fact I have a binding commercial agreement with Vodacom. Evidence in court shows Alan Knott-Craig jnr gets an 85% share of the revenue for his VAS product. I only requested 15% yet I am portrayed as greedy. No-one is asking how much revenue Vodacom has generated from Please Call Me versus the apparently "generous/charitable" offer determined by the CEO.

The Constitutional Court judgment reads: "It is common cause that this product has generated revenue amounting to billions of rands." It is perplexing that Vodacom continues to insist that it cannot calculate Please Call Me revenues.

I will soon exercise my rights in our courts. Vodacom has falsely said I demanded R70bn, portraying itself as a victim and me as greedy; the truth of the R70bn liability will be dealt with in court papers.

Lastly, to this day I am waiting to be granted access to extracts of the 2008 KPMG forensic report as ordered by the high court, which was emphatic that, without access to this report, I will settle blind; this is another key matter that will be dealt with in my court application.

In the words of Nelson Mandela: "It always seems impossible until it's done."